Columbia's Knotty Noose Problem, Part 2

How the Teachers College administration went from supportive to skeptical in the Constantine case

Constantine pushed on with her appeal.

On Feb. 20, Constantine sent out a broad e-mail attacking the plagiarism charges and the college president, calling the investigation a “conspiracy and witch hunt.” She called the findings biased and vindictive.

Fuhrman had gone from a key supporter to adversary.

Ivylise Simones

Details

Columbia's Knotty Noose Problem, Part 1
There's still no culprit for a notorious noose at Teachers Collegeóbut plenty of evidence behind the firing of Madonna Constantine

“I am outraged by the President's memo that summarized the outcomes of a ‘neutral’ investigation that I used the work of others without appropriate attribution,” Constantine wrote.

She also accused Teachers College of “structural racism.” “I am left to wonder whether a white faculty member would have been treated in such a publicly disrespectful and disparaging manner,” she wrote.

After using college stationery to threaten her accusers in a confidential investigation, she claimed “lack of sensitivity and due process.”

She said that her evidence had been ignored, and that her accusers lied—it was they who had plaigiarized her, not the other way around, she claimed. The college never should have indemnified her accusers, she wrote. And she also said that officials tried to blackmail her into signing a “false statement.”

On February 24, Suniya Luthar sent an e-mail to everyone at Teachers College, blasting Constantine for accusing the college of racism. She also claimed that the college had given Constantine “inordinately high protection and support.”    

Luthar also accused the college of failing to back her up, and she publicly recounted her encounters with Dean Bailey, and Bailey’s efforts to remove her as department chair after she brought the allegations against Constantine.

Meanwhile, at a faculty meeting, Fuhrman told professors not to speak with the press. “I can hear the lawyers whispering in my ear,” she said, according to someone present.

In the February staff meeting, Fuhrman also told the faculty that she had offered Constantine a severance package, and asked her to “take responsibility,” but she turned it down.

Cort added her voice to the controversy in another e-mail. She recounted the content of the threatening letter on college stationery that Constantine sent her.

“What hurts me most is Dr. Constantine’s claim that the investigation was racially motivated,” Cort wrote. “I find it so ironic that this sojourner of truth, who feels she is being violated and publicly disrespected, has used her power and done the same thing to me, a young Black woman.’”

Luthar, meanwhile, is frustrated at the slow pace of Teachers College officials to act. “This has taken two-and-a-half years,” she tells the Voice. “I’m glad that after all this time, the truth is beginning to come out. I only wish the young people hadn’t suffered so much.”

Since word of the firing leaked out, Constantine spoke briefly in her own defense, and then fell quiet again. The college has said nothing since issuing its statement about her firing. But the silence doesn’t suggest inactivity: the Voice’s sources expect Constantine’s dismissal to produce one or more lawsuits. Whether or not the perpetrator of the noose on Constantine’s door is ever identified, there should be plenty of work for lawyers to go around in upcoming semesters.

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