When parents send a child to college, they entrust an institution to look out for their child's best interests.
Those whose children will attend Howard University, where Phylicia Rashad is the dean of the College of Fine Arts, should worry about her judgment in this regard.
Rashad, who played Bill Cosby's wife on his eponymous TV show in the 1980s and '90s, tweeted her enthusiastic support of him after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court vacated his sexual assault conviction on June 30. She has since deleted this tweet: "FINALLY!!!! A terrible wrong is being righted -- a miscarriage of justice is corrected!"
When Cosby was asked in a sworn deposition for a civil trial in 2005, "When you got the quaaludes [in the 1970s], was it in your mind that you were going to use these quaaludes for young women that you wanted to have sex with?" He answered, "Yes."
The state Supreme Court found that then-prosecutor Bruce Castor, who later defended Donald Trump during his impeachment trial, had said he would not charge Cosby criminally if he testified in the civil trial. Accordingly, the court ruled that Cosby's previous admission should not have been used against him in the 2018 criminal trial in which he was found guilty of sexual assault. Five other women testified under oath against Cosby in the criminal trial. He has been accused by 60 women of drugging and sexually assaulting them.
Rashad's continued public support of her friend and former co-star must be considered in the context of these circumstances and her role as a university dean.
How could a student who has been sexually assaulted trust an administrator who cheered Cosby's release? How could a parent believe that Rashad would protect victims on campus when she could not contain her glee on social media about Cosby walking free? How can Rashad defend Cosby's own words about what he admitted he did?
Rashad apologized after her tweet prompted calls from Howard students and alumni for her to resign. She later tweeted, "I fully support survivors of sexual assault coming forward. My post was in no way intended to be insensitive to their truth. Personally, I know from friends and family that such abuse has lifelong residual effects. My heartfelt wish is for healing."
In fact, her message showed more than insensitivity -- it revealed a blind spot and lack of judgment unbefitting someone who has power over students' lives.
The university released a statement distancing itself from Rashad's original comments, but if Howard University wants to keep Rashad in an administrative or fundraising role, it needs to remove her authority over student matters. She's made it clear that no amount of evidence will dissuade her beliefs about Cosby. That's a dangerous message to send to any sexual assault survivor.
School administrators have a responsibility to uphold Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination in American higher education, including sexual harassment and assault.
Deans are among the university employees expected to report incidents involving possible violations, which may involve students, faculty or staff.
Rashad can believe whatever she likes about the dozens of sexual assault allegations against her friend. But school leaders have an obligation to stand up for an institution's stated values.
That's what Rashad failed to do.
Parents, students and alumni ought to continue the pressure on Howard's administration to take substantive action on their concerns. It's an opportunity for the university to show that celebrity does not insulate one from consequences.
Making matters worse for his friend, Cosby publicly called on the university to support Rashad's "freedom of speech."
Unsurprisingly, a man who has escaped consequences for his actions expects that's how the world works.