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    Hangman’s Noose Sparks Controversy at Columbia

    A hangman’s noose was found pinned to the door of an African-American professor’s office at Columbia University’s Teacher College last Tuesday. The office belonged to Madonna G. Constantine, 44, a professor of psychology and education at Teachers College. The police are currently investigating the incident, including testing the rope for DNA.

    “I am upset that the Teachers College community has been exposed to such an unbelievably vile incident, and I would like us to stay strong in the face of such a blatant act of racism,” Constantine said as she thanked supporters the next day during a student protest.

    “Hanging the noose on my office door reeks of cowardice and fear on many levels. I want the perpetrator to know that I will not be silenced.”

    A colleague of Constantine, Prof. Marie Miville, who called it a “vile act,” discovered the noose at about 9:15 a.m. Tuesday. Miville alerted Constantine’s research partner, Derald Wing Sue, who contacted security and then phoned Constantine. “All I could hear was this long pause, silence at the end of the phone,” he said after speaking to Constantine. According to the police, the noose was placed on the door sometime between 8 a.m and 9:15 a.m.

    Although security cameras monitor the entrance to the building, there are none in the hallway where the noose was discovered. The 24-hour building is accessible only to those with a Teachers College ID card or other credentials said Joe Levine, executive director for external affairs at Teachers College.

    University President Lee Bollinger denounced the incident.

    “This is an assault on African Americans and therefore it is an assault on every one of us. I know I speak on behalf of every member of our communities in condemning this horrible action. I also want to express our full support of Teachers College and President Susan Furhman in dealing with this matter,” Bollinger said in an email.

    “I think the noose thing is despicable and disgraceful,” Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said.

    According to the Columbia Spectator, Columbia’s student newspaper, more than 150 undergraduates attended a meeting Tuesday night on campus, and more than 120 Teachers College students expressed their outrage at a gathering in the dining hall.

    “I’ve been here two years and this [hate] just seems part of the culture and it’s an ugly manifestation of the culture here at Columbia,” Desiree Carver-Thomas, CC ’09, said. “I’m wanting to get at the root of the culture and the problem rather than chasing after every event that happens on campus because that just runs us ragged.”

    Students staged a protest the next day in support of Constantine. “No diversity, no university,” chanted inflamed students.

    The discovery of the hangman’s noose strikes a chord with many, coming less than a year after the racial tensions that arose in the Jena Six case in Louisiana when students hung nooses from an oak tree after black students had sat under the tree traditionally reserved for white students. The white students who hung the nooses were suspended but not prosecuted. One of the white students was beaten three months later, and six black students were charged with attempted murder. Thousands of people protested the arrests.

    Columbia has recently been the subject of national attention for several other controversial incidents, most recently last month when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was invited to speak, prompting protests by groups angry about his statements questioning the existence of the Holocaust, and left students divided over the rights of free speech. Similarly, last fall, a group of students stormed a stage to silence a speech by Jim Gilchrist, the founder of the Minutemen group which radically opposes illegal immigration.

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