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UMass Amherst cuts ties with Bill Cosby amid rape allegations

Comedian Bill Cosby was once an ideal famous face to be associated with a college or university. Now, amid a slew of allegations that he drugged and raped numerous women over several decades, the University of Massachusetts Amherst has become the latest institution to cut ties with the legendary performer.

"I was always proud to say that I went to the same school that Bill Cosby went to and thought it was pretty cool, but I can’t say that anymore. It really is disappointing"'

Cosby had previously received a master’s and a doctorate in education from UMass, was an honorary co-chairman of the school’s ongoing $300 million fundraising campaign, and his wife Camille had also donated thousands to the school over the years. 

On Thursday, UMass confirmed that Cosby had agreed to end his relationship with the school. “He no longer has any affiliation with the campaign nor does he serve in any other capacity for the university,” university spokesman Edward Blaguszewski. said in a statement. The move came under pressure from some high powered people, including Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley. 

“At a time when the state is focused on prevention and response to sexual assaults on campus, allowing Mr. Cosby to continue to represent our state university sends the exact wrong message,” Coakley wrote on Wednesday in a letter to the college.

“We didn’t feel right associating with that,” Diana Ciccolini, a junior who is on the board of the campus organization Isenberg Women in Business, told The Boston Globe. “I was always proud to say that I went to the same school that Bill Cosby went to and thought it was pretty cool, but I can’t say that anymore. It really is disappointing.”

Meanwhile, Spelman College, a predominately African-American and female school, which has also benefited from the Cosby family's largesse over the years, put a statement out Wednesday addressing their relationship with the embattled star.

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"The College is not in a position to comment regarding the allegations. The College's primary connection with the Cosby family is the Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby Ed.D. Academic Center, which opened at Spelman College in 1996. At the time, an endowed professorship named for Drs. Cosby was also established to support visiting scholars in the fine arts, humanities and social sciences as well as Spelman College's Museum of Fine Art. The academic center and endowed professorship were funded through a philanthropic commitment from the Cosby family made more than 25 years ago, and at this time there are no discussions regarding changes to the terms of the gift," the school's president, Beverly Daniel Tatum, said in a statement.

She added: "Though it is not appropriate for the College to comment publicly on specific allegations against any individual, sexual assault is a profoundly serious issue for any educational institution.  Please know that we do not condone sexual violence in any form and understand our critical role as a women's college to lead in the fight against it.  I trust you will read all news media critically, informed by these facts."

Temple University, Cosby's undergraduate alma mater and the school most identified with the comedian, continues to stick by him. "There is a no change in Dr. Cosby's status," a representative for Temple told NBC on Thursday. He remains on the Temple University Board of Trustees.

Although Cosby has never been charged with a crime, a cloud of suspicion has dogged him over the last several weeks, as over a dozen women, including former supermodel Janice Dickinson, have come forward with eerily similar descriptions of alleged sexual assaults perpetrated by the former sitcom star. The ongoing controversy has led to canceled live performances, television appearances and the postponement of a planned stand-up special on Netflix. Also a long-awaited return to NBC, which aired his iconic "Cosby Show" from 1984 to 1992, in the form of a new sitcom has also been terminated by the network.

Still, the 77-year-old has been continuing to tour and refusing to answer questions about the allegations being made against him. His attorneys have previously said Cosby would not "dignify" the accusations with a response. Later, in an official statement to NBC News, Cosby attorney Marty Singer said, "The new, never-before-heard claims from woman who have come forward in the past two weeks with unsubstantiated, fantastical stories about things they say occurred 30, 40 or ever 50 years ago have escalated far past the point of absurdity."