On Tuesday, an African American professor at Teachers College, the nation’s top-ranked education school, came to her office to find a noose hanging on the door. Today students clad in black will rally in protest of this hate crime at 2 p.m. in front of Arthur Zankel hall before a town hall meeting at TC.
The hate crime comes after a series of politically and racially charged events that have occurred over the past two weeks including Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s controversial appearance, the discovery of racist and Isloamophobic graffiti, and the announcement of an appearance by conservative author David Horowitz, CC ’59, for Islamo-fascism awareness week.
While her name has not been confirmed by police or administration officials, several sources have reported that the victim is Madonna Constantine, an African American woman famous for her publications on racism. She is a professor of psychology and education and a director of the Cultural Winter Roundtable on Psychology and Education.
“All of her [Constantine’s] work [on racism] is disregarded. She is just a black woman to them [the perpetrators],” said Jasmine Alvarez, a representative to the University Senate.
According to University officials, the noose was discovered this morning and was reported to the New York City Police Department’s Hate Crimes Task Force, members of which are currently investigating the incident.
Early Wednesday morning, the New York Post cited several unnamed sources as saying the incident "may stem from a bitter academic dispute with a white rival professor." However, this claim could not be immediately confirmed.
"They're investigating whether another professor put the noose there rather than a student," one of the sources told the Post. "They have someone they're looking at, another professor who had a rivalry with her and was jealous over the work she did."
Constantine did not respond to calls for comment late last night.
TC President Susan Fuhrman notified students and faculty at the school via e-mail yesterday afternoon. “The TC community and I deplore this hateful act, which violates every Teachers College and societal norm,” she wrote.
While undergraduates received no notices regarding the hate crime from administrators, University President Lee Bollinger denounced the incident in a written statement released to Spectator. “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,” he said.
Students reacted strongly to the controversy last night. More than 150 undergraduates attended a meeting held last night in Earl Hall, and over 120 Teachers College students gathered last night in the TC dining hall to express their feelings about, react against, and move forward from the hate crime.
Today’s town hall meeting, which was scheduled before yesterday’s incident, is set to be attended by Fuhrman and TC Provost Thomas James. But administrators were conspicuously absent at last night’s TC meeting, which led students to question the accountability system of both TC and the University.
“Where is the president right now? Where is Bollinger?” a student who wished to remain anonymous asked. “They’re not here to give the support they need to give ... Do we have to wait for a murder ... for us to get the support we need from the faculty?” Another student said that James was hired to implement diversity initiatives, but his no-show last night caused the student to doubt that claim.
Many students said that change has to come from higher authorities, despite the absence of those figures at the emergency meetings. “Just the way President Bollinger said to Ahmadinejad, Bollinger has to say that this is unacceptable,” Alicia Sosa, a TC student, said.
TC student Sara Zoeterman was walking to the small campus at 120th Street for the meeting there when a news crew posed questions to her about Constantine, asking what the professor had done to make her hateful in the eyes of the perpetrator. “If I was watching the news, I’d think, ‘why is someone pissed at her?’” Zoeterman said.
At the meetings, several students said they need to stop “reinventing the wheel” when it came to protest and to start employ different rallying strategies. One TC student called for more disruptive, physical action, suggesting blocking traffic on Amsterdam Avenue with desks and chairs. Afterwards, a group of students who attended the event released a list of demands for the University to comply with.
“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 after the Earl Hall meeting. “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.”
Towards the end of the TC meeting, students approved today’s rally, which undergraduates at Earl Hall later said they would join.
“Everything needs to be called into question,” Christien Tompkins, CC ’08 and executive co-chair of United Students of Color Council said after the Earl Hall meeting. “This noose incident is a very sharp indicator of how important it us for students, as people of conscience, not just to ask the administration to do things and wait for things to happen but make them happen.”
“Just like the racist graffiti found at the School of International Affairs, the event was also an act of cowardice aimed at dividing our community at a time when we are particularly vulnerable,” the Black Students Organization said in a statement released last night said. “Yet, we must and we will stand together, in solidarity and send the message that these acts of hate will not be tolerated.”
Many TC students said they were personally hurt. Many called the placement of the noose the tip of the iceberg and that racism pervades the halls and classrooms of Teachers College. One student said he found this racism perverse, as he learns in class about educational equity and hopes to teach Harlem’s youth after graduation.
Today, student leaders will meet with Vice President of Arts and Science Nicholas Dirks and Dean Austin Quigley of Columbia College.
Amanda Erickson and Josh Hirschland contributed to this article
The reporters of this article can be reached at email@example.com.