Columbia 'noose' professor fired

June 24, 2008 4:59:20 PM PDT
A Columbia University professor whose colleagues found a noose hanging from her office doorway has been fired after allegations of plagiarism. Since the noose was discovered Oct. 9, police have tested the 4-foot-long rope for DNA, conducted extensive interviews with possible witnesses and reviewed tens of hours of security-camera footage - but still have no suspects. A Manhattan grand jury is investigating the discovery, which sparked outrage last fall among students, faculty and administrators.

The professor, Madonna G. Constantine, was a tenured professor of education and psychology at Columbia's Teachers College and had written extensively about race.

She was sanctioned in February for plagiarism after the university determined she had used the work of others without attribution in papers published in academic journals over the past five years. She had remained on staff pending an appeal, with her lawyer saying at the time that she had been targeted because of her race.

In a letter to faculty Monday announcing her termination, college administrators said that Constantine had obstructed the school's investigation.

"During the months since the college levied sanctions against her, Professor Constantine continued to make accusations of plagiarism ... against those whose works she had plagiarized," the letter said.

Bill Anderson, a spokesman for Teachers College, said Constantine is entitled to a hearing where she can challenge the dismissal. Her attorney, Paul Giacomo, says she has until July 15 to decide what course of action to take, and he called the firing "purely retaliatory."

The plagiarism investigation began in 2006, well before the noose - a symbol of lynchings in the Deep South - was discovered on her door. A day after it was found, Constantine denounced the apparent hate crime at a raucous rally on campus.

Police at the time ruled out any possibility that Constantine had hung the rope herself. A few weeks later, a swastika was discovered on the door of a Jewish professor at Teachers College.

Police are still investigating that incident as well.

Teachers College, founded in 1887, describes itself as the nation's oldest and largest graduate school of education.