After a chorus of calls to revoke an honorary degree from Charlie Rose following allegations of sexual harassment against the former talk show host, Sewanee: The University of the South made the call on Tuesday.
The Episcopalian campus in Sewanee, Tenn., caught some flack after initially deciding not to rescind an honorary degree awarded to Rose in 2016 on the basis of his journalistic accomplishments; he otherwise has no connection to the university.
But on Tuesday, the university's board of regents voted to revoke the honorary degree. It wasn't clear by how many votes the decision was made, but a statement from the university said a two-thirds majority was needed.
Rose, a longtime journalist and television host, has been accused of sexual harassment by eight women, The Washington Post reported in November. He has since apologized and said he was greatly embarrassed, but said he didn't think the allegations were accurate.
It was a slow-boil process for Sewanee to revoke Rose's honorary degree, involving three different groups — the same groups responsible for considering the conferral of such a degree. First, a committee was tasked with developing a process by which the university could review an honorary degree.
"This action followed requests to rescind Rose's honorary degree from students, faculty, and members of the Board of Trustees, and recognized that it occasionally may be necessary for the University to consider the revocation of an honorary degree held by a still-living recipient," the university's statement reads.
That committee finalized its policy and voted on March 11 to recommend revocation of Rose's degree after a request to do so was submitted to university Vice Chancellor John McCardell. The university senate met later that week and voted by a two-thirds majority to recommend revocation. At that point, the board of regents was notified of the recommendation and members cast the final say.
"This may be the first time the question of revoking an honorary degree has come up — but it is likely not to be the last time, and the University is now better prepared," McCardell said in a statement to the Times Free Press. "The issues that many on our campus have spoken about are broader than the behavior of Charlie Rose — though that behavior as described is indefensible."
"The University has steadfastly stood and continues to stand against sexual misconduct of any sort on the campus and in the workplace," he added. "We will continue to work actively to combat sexual misconduct and to address the issue of campus sexual climate."
Sewanee has never revoked an honorary degree in its 150 years of existence. The new policy recognizes that it "occasionally may be necessary for the University to consider the revocation of an honorary degree held by a still-living recipient," the statement reads.
"At this point, it was really healthy the way it ended up, because people spoke up and were listened to and the right decision was made," said Seminarian Bernadette Hartsough, adding that she was really inspired by the undergraduate leadership team that spearheaded the movement to call for the revocation of Rose's honorary degree.
"This isn't the end. Now, we're gonna keep moving forward," she said. "This is a good thing 'cause people are talking, and people are coming up with — they're not just complaining and protesting. They're coming up with solutions."