University officials delayed helping police investigate “heinous and upsetting incident.”
(Posted on October 11, 2007)
Catherine Donaldson-Evans, Fox News, October 11, 2007
The U.S. Department of Justice, including the FBI, has opened its own investigation into an incident involving the placement of a noose on the office door of a black Columbia University professor.
The DOJ joins the New York City Police Department hate crimes task force in trying to determine who could have hung the 4-foot-long hangman’s rope on the doorknob of Madonna Constantine, a professor at the university’s graduate education school.
Meanwhile, Columbia University students and faculty held a rally protesting the incident Wednesday. Many said they weren’t shocked that such a racially-motivated gesture happened at the Ivy League school.
The prestigious university, according to rally attendees, struggles with racial tension and prejudice in spite of its status as an elite institution with top-notch academics and a commitment to diversity.
“Unfortunately, I’m not surprised,” said one female African American doctoral student, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Columbia is not a tolerant community. There is not only racism but classism. I feel voiceless and invisible at times, but I’ve learned to let my voice be heard.”
Demonstrators with signs declaring “Intolerance Is Intolerable” and “Not on Our Campus” protested Wednesday afternoon outside Teachers College, and Constantine spoke publicly to condemn the “heinous and highly upsetting incident” of which she apparently was the victim.
Constantine has written extensively about racism and teaches a racial justice course. She wasn’t in her office Tuesday when her colleague noticed the noose, an inflammatory symbol recalling a bygone era of racially motivated lynchings in the South.
She said she often feels isolated as a black woman on campus, and many of her fellow students frequently turn their backs on her instead of speaking to her. At first, she said, she wondered whether she was being too sensitive, but other minorities at Columbia, located in the heart of Harlem in New York City, have told her of similar experiences.
“It feels intentional because it constantly happens,” she said.
An adjunct professor at Wednesday’s protest said she has noticed an increase in discriminatory behavior and attributed it to the current political climate in the United States.
“It’s horrifying obviously,” said Cris Beam, who teaches creative writing. “We’re in a culture right now of escalating racism, in an increasingly conservative (environment). We all live in this country, so it seeps in.”