In an effort to hold onto her position as a tenured faculty member at Teachers College, controversial Professor Madonna Constantine is grasping at the last shreds of internal process available to her.
Though TC's Faculty Advisory Committee has already rejected Constantine's appeal of sanctions imposed on her based on plagiarism charges, Constantine is appealing the FAC's call for the termination of her position as a tenured professor.
Constantine gained notoriety last October when a noose was found on her office door, sparking a national debate about racism in academia. In February, TC announced that Constantine had been found guilty of plagiarizing passages from the work of three former students and colleagues. After Constantine appealed the decision, TC found her guilty once again and raised the penalties from undefined sanctions to termination, a move lauded by some but condemned by Constantine.
This latest appeal, announced in a letter addressed to TC President Susan Fuhrman from the office of Constantine's lawyer Paul Giacomo Jr., claimed that Constantine's termination when considered on top of previously imposed sanctions was retaliation against Constantine's appeal of the first decision. The letter demands a fresh investigation into all charges of plagiarism, and further calls for the removal of Barry Farber from the FAC due to a conflict of interests.
Giacomo argues against TC's using statements by Constantine condemning the institution as grounds for her termination, claiming that it violates her First Amendment rights. "The vague reference you make to a document submitted to the media … cannot provide a pretext for my client's termination," the letter said.
Aside from saying that the firm has evidence of Constantine's innocence, the letter hardly alludes to the plagiarism charges facing her. Rather, the note focuses on the process of Constantine's termination itself, deeming the entire investigation as objectionable and biased.
Specifically, Giacomo condemns the "secret" manner of the investigation and the circulation of documents among the FAC and trustees, and "attempted blackmail" of Constantine to provoke her resignation.
Giacomo demands a "de novo" review of all evidence of plagiarism, including "expert analysis verifying the numerous electronic files which demonstrate priority of authorship" of the passages which Constantine is accused of stealing from colleagues. Since the FAC apparently did not consult with any witnesses who would vouch for Constantine's prior authorship, Giacomo claimed that this new investigation would give the FAC an "opportunity to address these deficiencies."
According to TC Statutes, Constantine is entitled to 90 days to prepare the materials for her appeal, which will include documents that allegedly prove priority of authorship. Also citing Statutes, Giacomo calls for the removal of Farber from the FAC, saying that as a member of Constantine's department, Counseling and Clinical Psychology, Farber has a special interest in her removal. Professor Lisa Miller, from the same department, removed herself from the FAC before the first appeal.
In the original decision against Constantine in February, independent firm Hughes, Hubbard & Reed found that Constantine had used "strikingly similar language" in her work as some of her students. Three individuals were named in particular who had complained about Constantine's plagiarism—former TC Professor Yeh and students Tracy Julaio and Karen Cort—since that TC had paid for their legal indemnity, or insurance for legal consequences the revelation of their names might accrue.
Since that verdict was announced, Spectator has learned several more individuals have leveled charges against Constantine, but were not granted the same legal privilege so kept their names hidden. Sources have also said that the entire ordeal stretches back into the years before Fuhrman's presidency, and includes allegations of misused departmental funds.
The FAC dismissed Constantine's earlier appeal, saying that her evidence was not verifiable. Representatives from Giacomo's firm said they went to great pains to verify evidence—specifically, submission letters from editors that seem to prove that Constantine wrote the passages first—and circulated a spreadsheet detailing evidence of Constantine's innocence for each allegation of plagiarism.
A TC spokesperson said the institution had no comment regarding the appeal. Farber did not return call for comment.
For the article about Constantine's termination, see http://www.columbiaspectator.com/node/52204 .
Lydia Wileden contributed reporting to this article.