Skip to content

Racist Hangman’s Noose Found on Columbia University Prof.’s Door

October 10, 2007


 image by thetombstonesnake courtesy of Flickr via



NEW YORK – Hundreds of Columbia University teachers and students voiced outrage Wednesday over a noose found hanging from a black professor’s office door, while police investigated if it was the work of disgruntled students or a colleague.

The 4-foot-long twine noose was found Tuesday on Madonna Constantine’s door at Teachers College, a graduate school of education affiliated with Columbia. At a raucous rally Wednesday, Constantine said it was a “blatant act of racism.”

“I’m upset that our community has been exposed to such an unbelievably vile incident,” she told the crowd. “Hanging the noose on my door reeks of cowardice and fear on many, many levels.”

Police were testing the noose for DNA evidence, said Deputy Inspector Michael Osgood, commander of the NYPD Hate Crime Task Force.

Constantine, 44, told police there was “ill will” between her and another professor, a police official said. But the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation had not been completed, stressed that the dispute was only one possible lead, and that police were also looking into whether “disgruntled students, anyone upset with grades” were involved.

Teachers College held a community meeting to discuss the incident, which has roiled the Ivy League campus.

“This is an assault on African-Americans and therefore it is an assault on every one of us,” university President Lee C. Bollinger said in a statement. “I know I speak on behalf of every member of our communities in condemning this horrible action.”

The state Attorney General’s office has sent lawyers from its civil rights bureau and investigators to look into the incident, said spokesman Jeffrey Lerner.

Derald Wing Sue, an adjunct professor at Teachers College who does research with Constantine, said he was at work Tuesday morning when another colleague spotted the noose hanging on the door. She wasn’t in her office at the time.

Constantine has written about race, including a book entitled “Addressing Racism: Facilitating Cultural Competence in Mental Health and Educational Settings.” Students said Constantine teaches a class on racial justice.

“Clearly, it was a symbolic act of racial hatred that was intended to intimidate,” Sue said. “I felt outraged and angry that this was directed at such a close colleague and friend of mine.”

Sue said he informed Constantine about the noose and she was devastated.

“She’s doing fine,” he said. “She’s OK. I’ve talked to her. She’s getting a lot of support.”

An e-mail to Constantine was not immediately returned Wednesday, nor were calls to Constantine’s office or the publicist for Teachers College.

As word of the incident spread, students and faculty reacted with sadness and anger.

“It’s hard hearing about it,” said student Danielle Green. “I’m not uncomfortable here but I’m not surprised. I mean, look at the world we live in. There is a lot of racism going on.”

In the message to the college’s 5,000 students and 150 faculty members explaining why police were on campus Tuesday, college president Susan H. Fuhrman said: “The Teachers College community and I deplore this hateful act, which violates every Teachers College and societal norm.”

“You would think, Columbia being such a diverse campus and New York being such a diverse city, it shouldn’t happen here,” said student Mikayla Graham.

The Columbia investigation follows the hate-crime arrest on Sunday of a white woman accused of hanging a noose over a tree limb and threatening a black family living next door in Queens. The two incidents were “the first noose cases in recent memory” in the city, said Osgood, the task force commander.

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

According to its Web page, the college brought black teachers from the South to New York for training in the early part of the 20th century, when schools in the South were segregated.

The college has a diverse student body, including students from nearly 80 countries. The racial breakdown is 12 percent black, 11 percent Asian American and 7 percent Hispanic.

The discovery of the hangman’s noose echoes other recent incidents involving the symbol reviled by many for its association with lynchings in the Old South.

Last year in Jena, La., three white students hung nooses from a big oak tree outside Jena High School. They were suspended but not prosecuted.

Racial tensions rose and a white student was beaten unconscious three months later. Recently, thousands of people protested what they consider to be the unfairly harsh prosecutions of six black students in the incident.

Columbia has been the site of other campus turmoil, most recently last month when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was invited to speak, prompting protests by groups angry over his statements questioning the existence of the Holocaust.

Last fall, Columbia was in the spotlight when a group of students stormed a stage to silence a speech by Jim Gilchrist, the founder of a group opposed to illegal immigration.

Associated Press writers Tom Hays, Warren Levinson and Frank Eltman contributed to this story.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. dan permalink
    October 12, 2007 8:10 am

    Ok thinking people, so everybodies panties are in a bunch over a peice of rope. Get over it. You have discredited yourselves using this incident as a reason stomp and cry. This young man is a thug. The young black students created the problem. The white kids were minding their own business.

    In Baltimore an incident has accured, the NAACP has been brought in, Local congressmen enlisted because, get this, for the lynching of a tampon in a school locker.

    You folks have too much time on your hands. Life must be good.

  2. October 12, 2007 8:46 am

    Dan, would you make that statement if a Jewish Prof. found a small swastika taped to her door at an elite University? Particularly after 11 other swastikas were found at other locations?

  3. toto permalink
    October 12, 2007 1:30 pm

    I guess i must have missed the new article(s) that stated that it was proven (not just assumed) that the incident was perpetrated by someone other than a person of color. I wonder what the response would be if it determined after an investigation that the act was in fact committed by other than someone of the caucasion persuasion. Without any proof or indication one way or the other, this is automatically a racist incident, thus soliciting waves of disgust and indignation, protests, firing up blood pressures, etc., and all based upon an automatic assumption. I think it would be better in a time where racism is becoming the first response for the insult d’jour, for cooler heads to prevail and wait until some determination of fact has occurred before the immediate comment of racisim is screamed all over the media. What if it turned out to be that an Asian cohort had a falling out with this professor, or a non-white student didn’t like the last marks received, etc. I wonder if those results would even get any press time. Why was Columbia so hesitant in releasing the surveillance video that may shed light on the issue? Was it because they wanted to make certain there was nothing therein to cause the school embarrasement, or somesuch?

  4. October 12, 2007 3:20 pm

    Dan–if that’s your real name. Thank God for the Internet. First, you certainly don’t have the balls to talk that nonsense to anyone in public. Second, it allows you to surf for porn, which is about as close to sex as you likely get.

    Send me a snail address and phone number if you got the sack for it. I’m easy to find. I don’t hide…like the clowns who used to lynch for real…

  5. October 12, 2007 3:25 pm

    Toto–I’d say that this noose iconography’s enough to at least make a good faith statement that yeah…maybe…racism…ok. A rebuttable presumption, let’s say. the fact that I have to explain that to you is troubling…indeed, more so than with Dan’s babble up there. The Klan in it’s heyday had millions of members. But that wasn’t the crazy thing. The kicker was the clump of many more millions who didn’t know or didn’t care what they were about.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: