Marist College Revokes Bill O’Reilly’s Honorary Degree (Video)

Remember Bill O’Reilly?

You know, the Fox News anchor forced to resign in the fall due to multiple sexual harassment accusations?

Thanks to a petition that received 120 signatures, O’Reilly’s alma mater, Marist College, has revoked the honorary degree it conferred upon O’Reilly in 2001.

In a memorandum to the college community Sunday, David Yellen, president of the small independent college in Poughkeepsie, New York, said:

“Bill O’Reilly has been accused of engaging in multiple acts of sexual misconduct and sexual harassment of women in the workplace. To many, his reported payments of tens of millions of dollars and dismissal by Fox News lend credibility to the allegations against him. Any form of sexual harassment or abuse is deeply contrary to the values of Marist College.”

Marist’s mission statement claims:

“Marist is dedicated to helping students develop the intellect, character, and skills required for enlightened, ethical, and productive lives in the global community of the 21st century.”

Political Science Chairperson, Dr. JoAnne Myers, delivered to President Yellen’s office the petition, which states:

“We believe that O’Reilly’s actions do not reflect the values of Marist College’s mission statement, which emphasizes ‘character’ and our goal to assist in developing ‘enlightened, ethical human beings. [O’Reilly’s accusations and behavior] show a pervasive attitude and pattern of harassment and legal culpability.”

Of Marist’s 175 tenured faculty members, Myers stated, more than half offered signatures and support.

Myers said:

“A group of us started to talk about it and we started to backchannel about it. There was a group of us from across the campus that talked about it. We tend to be a little more of the activists here. We felt that the time was right here at Marist and that the time was right out in the real world. We need to make a statement if we keep on talking about Title IX and equal treatment.” 

The college released an official statement on honorary degrees, which states, in part:

“The Board of Trustees has typically awarded honorary degrees to our featured commencement speakers. The Board has come to believe, however, that it is appropriate to have a policy addressing both the awarding and, potentially, the revoking of honorary degrees. Until these policies are finalized, we will not comment on any specific honorary degree recipient.”

Sociology professor, Dr. Justin Myers, a petition signatory, said:

“I was professionally obligated to sign the petition because Mr. O’Reilly has failed to live up to these values. His failure to realize the mission and values of Marist and respect the human rights of all people, particularly women, is not a one-time particularly women, is not a one-time incident that he then acknowledged was unacceptable and unjust and sought to make amends in his daily interactions with women.”

Expressing her confidence in Yellen’s handling of the matter, Dr. JoAnne Myers added:

[President Yellen] comes from a social justice background. He hit the ground here and has had a lot of issues that he has had to deal with and he has done a great job.”

In 2015, O’Reilly donated $1 million to the Peter P. O’Keefe, PhD. Endowed Scholarship, which provides full financial support annually to one student, beginning with an incoming member of the class of 2020.

To date, there is no indication this donation will also be revoked.

About it, Dr. JoAnne Myers stated:

“If we gave him back that money—who would be harming and who would we be helping? We would be hurting our students, and our students come first.”

An October New York Times investigation uncovered O’Reilly paid $32 million to five women to settle “allegations of repeated harassment, a non-consensual sexual relationship and the sending of gay pornography and other sexually explicit material.”

Image credit: Pinterest

Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been in featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, The Broke Bohemian, Straight Forward Poetry, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to Op-Ed News, Liberal Nation Rising, and Zoedune.