Published June 25, 2008
NEW YORK – A black Columbia University professor who made headlines after a noose was found hanging on her door was suspended indefinitely for plagiarism and likely will be fired.
The termination of Madonna Constantine, a tenured psychology and education professor who specialized in racial issues at Columbia’s Teachers College, is effective Dec. 31, 2008, pending an appeal.
"I can confirm that Madonna Constantine has been terminated subject to a hearing before a faculty committee," Teachers College spokesman Bill Anderson told FOXNews.com.
In a letter sent out Monday, Teachers College President Susan Fuhrman and university Provost Tom James said an investigation found that Constantine was guilty of plagiarism and of trying to cover it up by accusing those whose work she stole of plagiarism.
"The Faculty Advisory Committee (FAC) confirmed the administration's decision to accept ... the report's findings that Professor Madonna Constantine had committed plagiarism and acted to obstruct the investigation," they said in the letter, sent Monday.
The "sanctions" imposed against the racial justice and psychology professor "were not only justified but required," the letter said.
"We are terminating Madonna Constantine's employment with Teachers College for cause subject to a hearing before a faculty committee," the administrators wrote.
Calls to Constantine and her lawyer, Paul Giacomo Jr., were not returned Tuesday.
But the professor told the New York Daily News that the allegations were "baseless" and she was devastated by them. Constantine, who has written extensively about race, said she was dismissed because she spoke out about the noose on her door.
In a statement Giacomo circulated Monday, he said Constantine had been suspended without pay and would be fired depending on the outcome of a possible appeal, according to the Columbia Spectator.
He also characterized the actions against Constantine as "retaliatory and hostile" and the report by the FAC as "fatally flawed."
Constantine has until July 15 to decide whether to challenge the school's decision.
The professor was sanctioned in February after an investigation determined she had incorporated the work of others without attribution in some of her academic journal papers. In particular, she took the work of a former colleague and two former Ph.D. candidates, according to the findings.
She was permitted to keep her job and challenge the decision, which she did. But her appeal of the findings was rejected by administrators.
In October, Constantine, while being investigated for plagiarism, came to work to find a noose hanging from her door in an apparently racially motivated attack. She linked the two events.
The Oct. 9 incident sparked national media attention, criticism of race relations at the New York City Ivy League school, an investigation by the NYPD and the Department of Justice and a large rally on campus denouncing hate crimes.
At the time, Columbia President Lee Bollinger had only harsh words for the person who had taunted Constantine with the hangman's rope — which is considered a racist symbol because of its association to the lynching of blacks that once was common in the South.
"This is an assault on African Americans and therefore it is an assault on every one of us," Bollinger said then in a statement. "I know I speak on behalf of every member of our communities in condemning this horrible action."
Police say they still don't know who hung the noose from Constantine's door and have no suspects, though a grand jury in Manhattan is investigating. They don't believe Constantine was the one who hung the rope, which has been tested for DNA.
A few weeks after the noose incident, a swastika was found on a Jewish professor's door at Teachers College. That matter also remains under investigation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.