Howard University faces an unenviable second day of dealing with Bill Cosby’s release from prison. Not because the newly-freed admitted rapist is headed to the Mecca following the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s overturning of his due process-less trial and conviction, but because one of his biggest supporters and former co-star tweeted support for him in the hours following his release.
Howard Dean of Fine Arts Phylicia Rashad, who was named to the position just weeks ago, tweeted this following the breaking news of America’s estranged dad walking free.
The tidal waves of support for sexual assault survivors and from Cosby antagonists reached Washington D.C. and by nightfall pulled back these responses from Rashad and from the university into the muddied ocean of hot takes and hurt feelings.
No matter how many crises Howard faces and either survives or masters, each of them has its own DNA in institutional response and public reaction to it. The coding on this one, fortunately for HU, is that this episode is one voice, one tweet, and one perspective which can’t be assigned to negligence or conspiracy created by the institution itself.
Reasonable students should not be planning fall move-in for the A building, and Howard alumni shouldn’t be planning mass petitioning for termination of a transformational tenure before it begins.
At the same time, Rashad is the singular most popular and easily recognizable faculty face of her alma mater. Her celebrity and her position does seemingly require a different level of engagement from the institution than may be typically prescribed.
But should it be that way? And how does it get done without creating unintended consequences? The answers aren’t easy to come by.
Since it seemingly started and ended on Twitter, I share with you my feelings I originally recorded there. Please feel free to leave your thoughts here.