Three State Representatives are questioning the motivation of University of Missouri System president Mun Choi’s push to rescind Bill Cosby’s honorary degree from the Columbia campus. Choi made his request at the Board of Curators meeting this week in Columbia.
Cosby is facing multiple lawsuits from women accusing him of sexual assault. The St. Louis Post Dispatch quoted Choi as saying Cosby’s actions are “incongruent with our values of respect, of treating people with respect. It is for that reason I will be making a recommendation to the board of curators to revoke his degree.”
The Representatives, fronted by Democrat Courtney Curtis of Ferguson, suspect Choi could be trying to divert attention from a recent case of rape on the University of Missouri’s Kansas City campus.
The lawmakers recently expressed concern that the university system plans to enforce a policy requiring all freshman to live on campus when, they say, it hasn’t successfully dealt with the rape culture. Curtis thinks Choi’s Cosby announcement could very well be an effort to deflect attention from the issue.
“It seems to be” said Curtis. “Or it’s something that could make him look as though he’s a proactive leader, and he wants to set the tone. But you can’t do that when you haven’t done the basic things.”
Missourinet obtained a copy of an email dated Tuesday from Rep. Curtis to Choi stating certain requests, and asking Choi to be present at an upcoming committee hearing.
One of the requests is for a comprehensive review of what caused a security breakdown at the Kansas City campus that ultimately led to a student being raped on campus in February.
In that instance, surveillance video showed a male student carrying a female student who appeared to be passed out into a building late at night. The path would have taken them directly by a security desk, which is supposed to be manned 24/7.
The email asks for the review of the breakdown to be presented to the House panel all three sit on, the Urban Issues Committee. It also requests the university system adopt an exemption to the mandatory policy that freshman students live on campus if they don’t feel safe.
The email further requests that all students be informed of the new policy, and that security be provided 24/7 in the campus dorms.
The correspondence also asks for Choi’s presence in front of the House Urban Issues Committee to discuss on record matters they’ve previously discussed.
The email leaves open the time and date of the hearing until it’s determined what will happen with special legislative session being called by Governor Greitens.
The move to require freshman stay in dorms has been billed by the university system as a way to generate revenue after a funding reduction and falling enrollment. Curtis is critical of the move, given the recent history of sexual assault on campus.
“I guess they want to call it a budget crisis or whatever. They’re going to force the freshman strictly to live on campus. As someone who fights for people to be protected in every environment, it doesn’t make me feel good.”
Curtis is joined in his requests of UM System President Choi by Representative Clem Smith, D-Velda Village Hills, and Representative Brandon Ellington, D-Kansas City.