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SUNY trustees rescind UB honorary degree for Harvey Weinstein

The University at Buffalo degree that took Harvey Weinstein nearly 30 years to earn was stripped away from the disgraced Hollywood producer Wednesday.

The State University of New York board of trustees met in Albany for the first time since multiple published reports detailed allegations of sexual assault and harassment brought by dozens of women against Weinstein.

Trustees voted unanimously, with one abstention, to rescind an honorary degree that was granted to Weinstein from UB in 2000.

"Mr. Weinstein's alleged misconduct violates the core principles upon which the university was founded and runs counter to the standards of mutual respect and professionalism that the university expects from all members of its community," SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson said before the vote.

SUNY policy allows for the revocation of an honorary degree if a recipient's misconduct is inconsistent with the mission of the university, undermines the accomplishments that were the basis for awarding the degree or damages the reputation of SUNY or any of its campuses, Johnson said.

"Had the committee been aware of Mr. Weinstein's alleged misconduct at the time it initially reviewed his candidacy. it would not have recommended that he be awarded a degree, because the misconduct alleged violates the principles upon which an honorary degree is based," she said.

UB officials, who had asked for the degree to be rescinded, released a statement after the vote stating that they supported the action of the trustees.

"We at UB are collectively offended and disappointed by Mr. Weinstein’s alleged and admitted conduct. In seeking this revocation of the SUNY honorary degree, the University at Buffalo is also clearly stating that sexual harassment or sexual misconduct will not be tolerated," the statement said.

A News file photo from 2000 shows Harvey Weinstein at the UB event honoring him. Here, he gives a warm greeting to Frank McGuire, a local businessman who was the original investor for Weinstein's first film, "The Burning." (Sharon Cantillon/News file photo)

Weinstein left Queens to study English as a UB undergraduate in the 1970s. He dropped out about 20 credits shy of earning a bachelor's degree to launch his career in the entertainment industry as a concert promoter.

Weinstein and his brother, Bob, founded Miramax Films, an independent film distribution company that grew into a Hollywood powerhouse responsible for many Oscar-nominated films.

Typically, UB awards honorary degrees at annual commencement ceremonies in May.

In Weinstein's case, the university held a special ceremony Sept. 26, 2000, in the art gallery of the Center for the Arts, where he received an honorary doctorate of human letters degree from then-UB President William R. Greiner, on behalf of the SUNY trustees.

"I've received some honors in my life. I've been lucky that way," Weinstein said at the time. "But I can't tell you how emotional this feels."

UB officials announced on Oct. 11 that they were beginning a process to revoke the honorary degree. Only the SUNY trustees have the authority to make that decision.

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