Monday, March 31, 2008

Anatomy of a Hate Crime

Madonna Constantine is a professor at Columbia University in New York. She is also a perfect example of what happens when political correctness, multiculturalism and leftwing politics intersect at an institution of higher learning. In October 2007, Professor Constantine allegedly found a noose hanging from her office door. She immediately alerted Columbia University's security and, apparently, the media. Perhaps not in that order. As she must have expected, she was suddenly showered with sympathetic press attention, like this fawning article in The New York Times:

“People have cried in class,” said Dr. Constantine, 44, a professor of psychology and education who specializes in the study of how race and racial prejudice can affect clinical and educational interactions. “Uncovering those issues, students often get to a place where it can be painful.”

In an interview in her office, a suite peppered with academic tomes and mugs from psychology conferences, Dr. Constantine said she remained mystified over who could be responsible for leaving a noose dangling on her office door at Teachers College this week.

“I really don’t have any idea of who could have done that,” she said. “Is there anything that I’ve experienced that’s close? I would say no.”

As she gave a round of interviews yesterday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice joined the investigation into the noose being conducted by the Hate Crimes Task Force of the New York Police Department.

But even at this early point, the investigation has prompted a clash between the university and the NYPD.

In the noose case, Mr. Browne said yesterday that the police were “disappointed and surprised” that Teachers College had refused to turn over its security camera footage without a subpoena. “It is always important to get information as soon as possible,” he said. “You don’t want to give the perp time to concoct a story or cover their tracks.”

But Susan H. Fuhrman, the president of Teachers College, said she was “surprised and distressed” to learn of the police criticism. She said the subpoena policy was standard for educational institutions, adding, “We have students here whose privacy we try to protect.”

She said that the college was committed to cooperating with the police and that by the time the police arrived with the subpoena early yesterday evening, the college had already downloaded the video to hand over to officers.

“There’s been open communication all along with the Police Department,” she said.

At the time, a number of New York commentators thought this explanation sounded odd, since any cameras at the university would have been located in public hallways where students would have had no expectation on privacy. But Columbia was eager, almost hasty, to assure everyone that good professor's reputation was unimpeachable.

As for Dr. Constantine, Dr. Fuhrman said she had heard “nothing but accolades” from her students. “She’s well respected in her field,” she said. “Probably her work engenders passionate debate, but I could name 100 other people here who you can say the same thing about.”

And what exactly was Professor Constantine teaching at Columbia? What vital areas of research was she conducting at the famed university?

One key concept in Dr. Constantine’s scholarship is “racial microaggression,” which she explained as the often subtle ways in which racial differences can plague relationships between even well-meaning therapists and their clients, or supervisors and their trainees. For Dr. Constantine, colorblindness is neither possible nor desired.

“We have some of the most well-meaning, well-intentioned students I have ever met, and I really enjoy working with them,” she said. “Well-meaning and well-intentioned doesn’t mean effective.” Proclaiming oneself to be colorblind, she added, “is not a helpful perspective in counseling and therapy.”

Does Dr. Constantine think her work could be connected to the noose, hardly a microaggression, but, in her words, “a very, very aggressive act?”

“I haven’t ruled it out that it’s connected,” she said. “I teach courses on racial and cultural issues.” She added, “There are things that I say that have pushed people’s buttons, because it challenges the status quo.”

Ah, yes. There it is. Professor Constantine was being persecuted for her heroic quest to study racism at Columbia University. Really, she is just another Martin Luther King Jr.

“Your scholarship is evaluated differently,” she said. “People think that I and other black scholars are studying issues of race because we’re black and because it’s personal. But if I’m studying racism, that’s not about me, right, that’s often about white people, who have certain types of attitudes about people of color, and so forth.”

Dr. Constantine was promoted to a full professor in 2003. But her time at Columbia has not been conflict-free. In May, she filed a defamation lawsuit against another professor in her department.

No detailed complaint has been filed in the case, and Dr. Constantine, who was accompanied during the interview by her lawyer, Paul J. Giacomo Jr., declined to elaborate on the case.

One can reasonable guess what Professor Constantine's research is all about (blame white people for everything) and exactly of what value it is to the university (read: none, save for getting to claim a black professor).

The case of the noose on Professor Constantine's office door faded from the news and was all but forgotten until February when Columbia University revealed that, contrary to statements from university officials at the time of the noose incident, there was significant reason to be skeptical of her claims. It turned out that the noose allegation came just as the good professor was facing a serious university investigation for numerous charges of plagiarism.

The case of a Columbia University professor who reported last fall finding a noose outside her office door has taken an odd turn. The professor, Madonna G. Constantine, has been reprimanded for two dozen instances of plagiarism, according to a spokeswoman for the university.

That news was first reported by the university’s student paper, The Columbia Spectator, which obtained a copy of a memorandum informing faculty members of the findings. The university is not revealing what punishment Ms. Constantine, who is a professor of psychology and education in the Teachers College, will face — only that it falls short of dismissal. The university spokeswoman, Marcia Horowitz, also declined to release examples of the alleged plagiarism.


When asked for comment today on the plagiarism charges, Ms. Constantine sent a 475-word written statement in which she questions the neutrality of the investigation and calls the administration’s memo “premature, vindictive, and mean-spirited.” She also contends that there has been “a conspiracy and a witch-hunt” by people, whom she does not name, in the Teachers College. Ms. Constantine writes that she plans to appeal the findings of the investigation.

The investigation into the plagiarism accusations was conducted by a law firm, Hughes Hubbard and Reed, and began in 2006. Ms. Constantine had been aware of the investigation, according to Ms. Horowitz. The spokeswoman called allegations of a conspiracy against Ms. Constantine “absurd.”

Notice that although Professor Constantine is caught blatantly plagiarizing the work of others, Columbia doesn't plan to dismiss her. Why? She is black; she'll scream racism; and she's doing nothing important anyway, so just let her be and avoid the cost of the lawsuit.

Today comes word that the NYPD isn't prepared to sweep the noose incident entirely under the rug:

A Manhattan grand jury has subpoenaed the university records of the controversial black Columbia Teachers College professor who found a noose hanging from her office door - signaling that the investigation is broadening to examine possible links between the teacher, her closest friends and the racially charged incident, The Post has learned.

According to sources, the subpoenas obtained recently by the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force and prosecutors demanded the college hand over a laundry list of records pertaining to embattled professor Madonna Constantine, whose colleague found a 4-foot hangman's noose on her office doorknob last October.

The incident happened at the height of the school's probe of plagiarism charges against her.

Last month, Teachers College announced that Constantine was responsible for two dozen incidents of stealing the work of a faculty member and two students under her tutelage, including lifting passages from their dissertations and hijacking their ideas. Constantine has denied the charge.

In addition to the plagiarism report, investigators want to examine all the information gleaned during the university's probe and by a law firm and private investigator hired by the school to investigate the plagiarism allegations.

They also want Constantine's financial contract with the school - which would include her salary, benefits and pension - and any other administrative personnel and academic records.

Sources said the records would provide investigators with a timeline on the tightly guarded 18-month plagiarism probe and what Constantine - one of only two tenured black Teachers College professors - stood to possibly lose if she were found guilty and her job were threatened.

The NYPD is operating under the assumption that either the professor, or a "sympathetic friend" put the noose on her office door as a means of averting attention from, and possible derailing, the plagiarism investigation that threatened professor Constantine.

This will come as little surprise to many skeptical New Yorkers, who strongly doubted that the KKK was operating on Columbia's campus. But no one should be surprised that someone thought they could help the professor by manufacturing a racial incident. After all, even after being charged with plagiarism by her university, there's no evidence that she will lose her job. Which says a great deal about Columbia University.


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