Phylicia Rashad offered a “sincere apology” to Howard University students and parents on Friday after facing backlash for defending Bill Cosby’s vacated sexual assault conviction and subsequent prison release.
“My remarks were in no way directed towards survivors of sexual assault. I vehemently oppose sexual violence, find no excuse for such behavior, and I know that Howard University has a zero-tolerance policy toward interpersonal violence,” Rashad wrote, according to CNN.
“The Cosby Show” actress and alum of Howard University was appointed as the dean of the school’s reestablished College of Fine Arts in May.
Over the next few weeks, Rashad said she plans “to engage in active listening and participate in trainings to not only reinforce University protocol and conduct, but also to learn how I can become a stronger ally to sexual assault survivors and everyone who has suffered at the hands of an abuser.”
On Wednesday, Rashad drew swift criticism after celebrating Cosby’s controversial prison release: “FINALLY!!!! A terrible wrong is being righted,” she posted alongside a photo of the disgraced comedian, “a miscarriage of justice is corrected.”
She then backtracked her statement following the quick criticism: “I fully support survivors of sexual assault coming forward,” she tweeted. “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.”
Howard University released its own statement of support to survivors of sexual assault on Wednesday night.
“Survivors of sexual assault will always be our priority,” tweeted the university. “While Dean Rashad has acknowledged in her follow-up tweet that victims must be heard and believed, her initial tweet lacked sensitivity toward survivors of sexual assault. Personal positions of University leadership do not reflect Howard University’s policies.
“We will continue to advocate for survivors fully and support their right to be heard. Howard will stand with survivors and challenge systems that would deny them justice. We have full confidence that our faculty and school leadership will live up to this sacred commitment.”