African-American psychologist Madonna Constantine, Professor of Psychology and Education at Columbia University Teachers College was targeted Tuesday with a noose on her door. It appears that, since the Jena 6 case got wide publicity, the incidence of noose incidents on campuses has spread. Here are two articles from the Columbia Spectator, the first on this incident and its aftermath, the second on protests at the school:
No Suspects Yet in Noose Incident
By Joy Resmovits
As hundreds of students, professors, and city leaders gathered Wednesday to protest the hanging of a noose on the office door of an African American Teachers College professor, police said that there were no suspects yet in the criminal investigation of the incident.
Officials said Wednesday that they were considering the incident aggravated harassment as a hate crime. Investigators reported that the noose had not been on the door of Professor Madonna Constantine’s office as late as 11:30 p.m. Monday night and that it was found on Tuesday by one of Constantine’s female colleagues, who reported it to the police. The NYPD, which noted that this was the first noose case in at least five years, said officials are interviewing all of professors in Constantine’s department.
Meanwhile, Columbia’s campus continued to react to the event. At an afternoon rally outside of Teachers College, Constantine made her first public appearance since the hate crime was perpetrated. As Constantine exited Zankel Hall, the crowd exploded with cheers.
Constantine thanked those present for the “overwhelming support” for her in light of the “heinous and highly upsetting incident.”
“I would like us to stay strong,” Constantine said. “I would like the perpetrator to know that I will not be silent. Hanging a noose on my door reeks of cowardice on many, many levels.”
Teachers College students held signs and chanted within police barriers on 120th Street. After a prayer and a moment of silence, the students marched around Columbia’s campus and the surrounding streets chanting.
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and New York state senator Bill Perkins spoke out from Zankel’s steps. Perkins discussed the symbolism of the noose, adding that he was troubled that someone with a CUID and knowledge of TC’s labyrinthine halls perpetrated the incident. “It’s as if a burning cross was placed on the campus of Columbia University,” he said. “This sounds like an inside job.”
While top TC administrators—including TC President Susan Fuhrman and Provost Thomas James—were present, Columbia University representatives were not. “Where is Bollinger? Where is Bollinger?” one protester chanted.
Bollinger, meanwhile, was at a meeting with a number of student leaders— chiefly representing cultural groups—where students grilled him on his handling of the incident and voiced sentiments that Columbia’s campus was hostile towards students of color. While Bollinger said he offered his support to Teachers College, he emphasized that it was a separate institution from Columbia.
The Chaplain’s Office and the University Provost have scheduled a common meal in response to the TC hate crime for Thursday at 6 p.m. in Earl Hall.
Tom Faure and Josh Hirschland contributed to this article.
Students Call For Reform at Teachers College
By Joy Resmovits
A simple piece of rope—looped, knotted, and left on a office door in Teachers College two days ago—sat at the center of a firestorm Wednesday as members of Columbia’s community sought to make sense of its chilling symbolism.
Many students and administrators, both from within and beyond Teachers College, voiced outrage and called for change in the school’s culture at pair of official gatherings. A TC town hall, scheduled before the incident, featured a panel of college administrators and a student senator in a crowded Cowin Auditorium, while University President Lee Bollinger led a heated meeting with student leaders in Lerner Hall.
Others turned to rally on 120th Street, where students wearing black shirts cheered for Constantine as she made her first public appearance since the discovery of the noose.
“I’m upset that our community was exposed to such an overwhelmingly blatant act of racism.” Constantine said. “Hanging a noose on my door reeks of cowardice on many, many levels.”
The rally also featured a moment of silence, prayer, chanting, and appearances by Fuhrman, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, and New York State Senator Bill Perkins, D-Morningside Heights and West Harlem.
Stringer said he would support the victim. “You will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law because your poison can be infectious,” he said.
“I share your shock and outrage. This is an abhorrent act,” Fuhrman told the assembled crowd. She added, “We will have the first chance as a family … to share our feelings. … It won’t be just talk, but actions. This has to stop.”
Protesters walked through the campus and around 119th Street chanting “No more nooses” and “Hey hey, ho ho, racism has gotta go,” drawing the attention of many onlookers. They continued chanting as they made their way toward Cowin Auditorium for the town hall meeting.
At the forum, about 600 members of the Teachers College community gathered to hear Fuhrman and Provost Thomas James speak.
Fuhrman called the incident “so incongruous with what we want to believe about ourselves.” She said that students and faculty should be accessible and helpful to police, express their feelings openly, and take action.
“I am in pain. I am in anger,” said Janice Robinson, director of the Committee for Community and Diversity who sat on the panel with Fuhrman and James. “We have to use this moment to galvanize us.”
Fuhrman said the incident occurred as TC was trying to increase diversity and awareness, especially by bolstering the accessibility of financial aid. And last spring, Fuhrman appointed James in an effort to increase diversity among faculty. Still, as a professor pointed out at a TC town hall meeting, there are few tenured full-time African-American professors at the school.
Many students complained about a pervasive feeling of racism at Teachers College. “I totally was not surprised, shocked, when it happened,” TC student Nicole Woodard, who is black, said. “It’s scary when I go into a lecture, I can count on my fingers how many people look like me. … Why could this person feel comfortable putting a noose on the door? He should have been shaking.”
Some said they were uncomfortable speaking about race in class, saying there is little diversity, and they expressed concerns that professors whom they may challenge control their grades. “Race is the white elephant in the classroom,” TC student Shawn Maxam said.
“I want to thank the person who put the noose up,” said Dawn Arno, director of TC EdZone Partnership, a group of students who teach in Harlem. “If the soil is not fertile, the seed cannot grow,” referring to the event’s potential to raise awareness.
Many students lined up to express emotions and suggested changes, such as creating an open space for students to voice concerns about diversity. Jonathan Jungblut, TC, received applause when he suggested that Teachers College create a post for a “special master who deals with race, sex, and gender who … advocates for issues.”
Teachers College administrators discussed TC’s programs and curriculum, and the possibility of making institutional changes. The school is currently undergoing a self-study to examine how race can be addressed across the institution.
“The administration is supportive in bigger ways than you probably realize,” Robinson responded after the Town Hall.
While the forum gave students a chance to discuss their emotions, many continued to feel shaken after the event. “I’m still crying every time I think about the physicality of what it must have felt like for her [Constantine],” Alyson Vogel, a program development specialist who works with Constantine, said after the town hall.
While some said they were pleased that the school dedicated time for the event, others were disappointed by the one-hour length and shortage of concrete initiatives.
“They cut it off prematurely as people were still lined up,” Nick O’Mahony, TC, said. “What does this say?”
James said it was cut off because the space was already reserved for other meetings and forums, and Fuhrman had to leave to speak with the media.
Some students were upset that the administration did not use the time to create policy. “I want some hope. They left me high and dry,” Lisa Robinson, TC, said.
“There are things underway that we’re extending, but we’re not today making policy decisions now,” James said in an interview. “We’re trying to support Madonna Constantine.”
The students who organized the rally met again in the TC dining room with Robinson last night. At the meeting, students deemed the event a success, and discussed plans for the future. They want to form a coalition that will last after they graduate, and make fighting racism a priority for the school.
“People are already over it, but we have some momentum,” Jasmine Alvarez, TC senate representative, said.
On Wednesday, students will have another opportunity to voice their concerns and discuss solutions with administrators at the state of the college address.
Joy Resmovits can be reached at email@example.com.