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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

UMass’s decision to cut ties with Cosby is a prudent move

Bill Cosby

The University of Massachusetts Amherst has severed ties with Bill Cosby after allegations of sexual misconduct against the actor have come to light. Cosby is an alumnus of the university, having earned his master’s and doctorate in education in the 1970s.

On Nov. 28, UMass Amherst spokesman Ed Blaguszewski released a statement reading, “Bill Cosby has agreed to resign as an honorary co-chair of UMass Amherst’s capital campaign. He no longer has any affiliation with the campaign nor does he serve in any other capacity for the university.”

With the amount of negative news media coverage that has surrounded Bill Cosby, this is certainly a smart PR move by UMass Amherst. Distancing the university from these very public allegations is almost a necessity given the growing number of sexual offenses that have take place on the Amherst campus.

According to the 2013 annual security report released by the university, the number of on-campus sexual offenses at UMass Amherst has risen from 13 in 2011 to 22 in 2013. In that same time period, the number of sexual offenses in residence halls has risen from 9 to 16.

Suffice it to say, it was a smart move by UMass Amherst to terminate their relationship with Cosby. Had the university not taken action, members of the media could and would have questioned UMass Amherst’s stance and brought light to the growing number of sexual offenses on campus. It is best for the university’s image to distance themselves from Mr. Cosby.

However, I am conflicted about the situation with Bill Cosby as a whole. A number of women have stepped forward with accusations of sexual misconduct against Bill Cosby and one has even filed a civil lawsuit. These accusations are serious and should be taken as such.

At the same time, it appears to me that there has been a rush by the media and the public to convict Bill Cosby. As serious as these accusations are, we must not be driven solely by emotion and realize that there has yet to be any substantiating evidence brought forward. At this point in time, we have nothing to go forward with other than the statements released by the accusers.

Again, this is not to say that these should be taken lightly; every accusation of sexual misconduct should be treated seriously. But, in a society that’s quick to jump to conclusions based upon media reports and emotion, we must resist the urge to immediately convict Cosby in the court of public opinion.

Examples like the Duke lacrosse case from 2006 show what the repercussions can be when the public gets so swept up by the emotion and media coverage of a case that they rush to convict the accused before knowing all of the facts and evidence of the case. It is important to ensure that all evidence and testimonies from both sides are known and heard before we make a judgment on this and every case.

We don’t live in a fantasy world though. We have seen and heard the negative media coverage of Bill Cosby and how it has swayed public opinion. This is why UMass Amherst had to act in the manner they did.

Regardless of whether or not substantiating evidence is brought forward, the media campaign and coverage of the case has, fairly or unfairly, tarnished Bill Cosby’s legacy. He is viewed in the eyes of many in the public as a sexual predator because of these media reports and UMass Amherst simply could not continue to be linked with Cosby. It was a smart PR move by the university and a necessary one so as to not to fall victim to the media hailstorm surrounding Cosby.