‘Is an HBCU a Place for That Commentary’: Critics Raise Questions About Hiring of Open Conservative and ‘The Cosby Show’ Actor Joseph C. Phillips at Clark Atlanta University

Actor Joseph C. Phillips, best known for his role as Lt. Martin Kendall on the hit sitcom “The Cosby Show,” is taking on a new role as an educator at Clark Atlanta University. The historical Black institution announced the new addition to the CAU faculty recently while praising the star’s history of community work. 

Over the weekend, the 60-year-old veteran star confirmed the news on Facebook with a post on Sunday, Oct. 10, writing, “The secret is out,” before giving supporters an update on his new role as a Theatre and Communications Studies professor: “I’m loving my new gig.”

Congratulatory remarks flooded Phillips’ comments section. “So happy for you. Congratulations on your new adventure,” wrote an online user. “Congratulations frat!” added another, referring to the actor’s involvement with the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.

The Colorado native received his BFA in acting in 1983, from New York University after transferring from the University of the Pacific as a communications major. For over a decade, Phillips served as a director on the State Board of the California African American Museum, working on the accessions committee, which was responsible for approving all art or artifacts for the museum’s collection.   

What some consider a questionable background for Phillips was brought up by a Twitter user who wrote, “Isn’t Joseph C Phillips super conservative? Is an HBCU a place for that commentary?”

Phillips is also the author of “He Talk Like a White Boy” and, for a long time, wrote a widely syndicated weekly column titled “The Way I See It” that promoted conservative views such as traditional family, limited government and a return to America’s founding principles. 

In a statement posted on CAU’s official webpage, the institution’s president, Dr. George T. French Jr., had this to say about Phillips: “Joseph brings a wealth of awe-inspiring talent, meaningful engagement in the community, and a portfolio of informed, decisive commentary to the University.” 

The statement continued, “We anticipate that he will inspire independent thinking, civic responsibility, and a passion for interdisciplinary learning in our students—which aligns perfectly with our mantra to “lift our community by lifting our voices.”

Phillips’ other career highlights include his character Greg Davis in Netflix’s popular young adult series “13 Reasons Why” and several cameos in hit drama shows such as “How to Get Away with Murder,” “NCIS” and “Good Trouble.” 

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