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Happy Trails to Columbia’s Madonna Constantine, Race-Baiting Third-Rate Scholar Extraordinaire.

see ya, madonna!

From the NY Sun:

Teachers College at Columbia University is suspending indefinitely Madonna Constantine, a professor who claimed she was the victim of a hate crime after an investigation began into allegations she committed plagiarism.

Check The Bwog for Columbia student reactions. So far there are only two – both of which support her suspension. Bwog comments spread like kudzu, so there will be plenty to read in a couple hours.

Back to the Sun article:

The letter, obtained by The New York Sun from a source at Teachers College, said the faculty advisory committee upheld an 18-month investigation by a Manhattan law firm, Hughes Hubbard & Reed, which found that Ms. Constantine had plagiarized two dozen times works of two former doctoral students and a former colleague.

“During the months since the College levied sanctions against her,” the letter said, “Professor Constantine continued to make accusations of plagiarism, including in at least one instance to the press, against those whose works she had plagiarized.”

When news of the plagiarism investigation became known in February, Ms. Constantine strenuously denied the charges. In addition to saying that it was she who the victim of plagiarism, Ms. Constantine said the school targeted her because of the “structural racism that pervades this institution.”

I guess we’ll see how her appeal goes.

The Sun’s PDF file of the letter to Teachers College faculty is corrupted, so I’ll steal again from Bwog:

madonna constantine, suspended

Remember: back in October 2007, a noose was placed on Constantine’s door. Students and staff rallied against Columbia’s obvious, super-duper racism – and every other -ism, too – and Constantine was the belle of the ball. I thought that TC dealt with it poorly, but that’s another issue.

Now there are doubts about the validity of Constantine’s victimhood. There are suggestions that associates of Constantine placed the noose on her door to distract from the plagiarism investigations.

Oddly enough, her faculty profile on the TC website has no mention of all this news on the ‘In the News’ tab, though an early piece about the noose incident appears. Lots of archived coverage here if you’re interested.

Constantine wrote of her mistreatment in February:

“I am left to wonder whether a White faculty member would have been treated in such a publicly disrespectful and disparaging manner.”

I wonder what statements will come next?

In my opinion, plagiarism is one of the more colorblind offenses – but that’s just me.

And a late answer to Constantine: Columbia may have dealt with you publicly because you accused the entire administration of being motivated by racism without providing any evidence to substantiate your claim.

Just sayin’.

16 Responses to “Happy Trails to Columbia’s Madonna Constantine, Race-Baiting Third-Rate Scholar Extraordinaire.”

  1. mjishernameo says:

    Matthew:

    great commentary, I’ve been watching the saga of this ditch pig for the past year. Now stay tuned for the drama of her appeal and lawsuits. All this for a second rate instructor…any lessons learned here Columbia?
    My gifted kid is going to community college. This elite university is much like the rest of them. What a waste of time and money.

  2. Where I agree with you completely is if Dr. Constantine got caught CHEATING, she deserves to be fired. I am quite angry with her and disappointed, in future many black professors will pay a serious price for her foibles, calculated or careless.

    With that said, I am troubled by the tone of your post. What exactly makes her a “third rate scholar”? Because she writes about race? Because you say so? What PhD do you have? And I doubt you are even remotely familiar with her work, so you have very little standing to judge her scholarship.

    And where I have a personal zero tolerance about academic plagiarism, the evidence in Dr. Constantine’s case isn’t that monstrous. Quite frankly I had to laugh at it because academia is
    the worse system in the world in terms of using other people’s work improperly and illegally. It happens all the time. Some schools would be missing quite a few professors if we really started cracking down on this issue. And some mighty big names would go down.

    Doris Kerns Goodwin is still writing books after getting caught and she was not fired. Joseph Ellis lied in his classroom for years about his Vietnam status and he’s still teaching at the same school. Two very famous professors at Harvard (one black and one white) have just been caught copying and no one is firing them. Not to mention the major scandal at Ohio State in their graduate engineering program, no professors were fired there and should have been.

    Plagiarism is a major problem in academia from administrators to students. Students doing all the research, then only the senior professor’s name on the final results is rampant and any student that raises an objection is putting their career at risk.

    My concern is clearly her personal politics are playing a role in this mess and that is troubling.
    And it sounds like you are more upset about her activism than her scholarship woes. One should have nothing to do with the other. No academic should be targeted because of their activism.

    Academia has failed repeatedly to be consistent on this issue. Fine, fire Dr. Constantine, but fire everyone else that commits the same act. Stop allowing undergrad and grad students to be abused by professors.

    If you maintain the same standards for everyone then the race card plays no role at all. When you don’t, you get stuff like Dr. Constantine’s case.

    And on a side note, I stumbled across your website and I encourage anyone that is trying to fix education, no matter their politics, but please stop being so dismissive of racism on college campuses until you have had more discussions with the individuals that actually carry the burden of facing it.

  3. mjishernameo,

    I wouldn’t toss out elite schools just yet. I find it tremendously valuable to be exposed to the best – and the worst who pretend to be the best. It does take a critical mind and a bit of resilience, and not every 18 year old is up tot he challenge, but it’s worth the trouble. The result is an outstanding education.

  4. Professor Tracey,

    Your comment is lengthy, so I’ll just hit a few pieces of it.

    I’m disappointed, too. Constantine certainly isn’t the only professor who has abused the work of graduate and advanced undergraduate students. It’s a practice I don’t think much of, and the examples you point out are right on – why institutions tolerate some of these offenses is beyond me.

    Also, that first real wave of plagiarism detection that ran through Harvard? Offending students were largely allowed to graduate with honors. The way most institutions deal with scholarly impropriety of professors and students alike is shameful. Colleges and universities need to do a better job on this issue, but they need to start by taking it more seriously than they do.

    “With that said, I am troubled by the tone of your post. What exactly makes her a “third rate scholar”?”

    I find her scholarship to be of little value – this is debatable, obviously. Plagiarism and professional improprieties, to me, keep one from being “first-rate.” Maybe she deserves an upgrade to “second-rate?”

    “Because she writes about race?”

    No, and I don’t know why you’re even asking that. Some of the most interesting, provocative scholarship of the last 20 years has been race-related. Claude Steele’s work on the stereotype threat was one of the more exciting things I’ve read. Though I find the majority of race-scholars to be useless, that they analyze race and its implications isn’t an automatic thumbs-down. They earn or avoid that based on the quality of their work.

    “Because you say so?”

    Partly, yes – that’s how it works. One person says something, another reacts to it – the community, professional, academic or otherwise, decides who’s right. That you don’t give a whit about what I think is absolutely fine – it’s part of the process. This is the process civilization has used for quite some time now. It usually works, but for better or worse, it’s what we’ve got.

    “What PhD do you have?”

    None.

    “And I doubt you are even remotely familiar with her work, so you have very little standing to judge her scholarship.”

    You haven’t a clue what I’m familiar with, to start – and you’d do well to defend the value of Constantine’s scholarship if you think it’s there. Plenty of people do, so it shouldn’t be hard to do.

    Her contributions to “Deconstructing Heterosexism in the Counseling Professions: A Narrative Approach” was a book chapter I could’ve lived without reading.

    “My concern is clearly her personal politics are playing a role in this mess and that is troubling.”

    They may be – I’m really not sure, but I wouldn’t say “clearly” either way. It’s always difficult during one of these storms to tell how much/who is mixing the two. I think we’ll have a better understanding of this when the dust settles, but I don’t see that she’s being persecuted for her politics/activism. I may be wrong.

    “One should have nothing to do with the other. No academic should be targeted because of their activism.”

    Agreed – they don’t, but one can’t deny that Constantine has conflated the two and is now pointing fingers and those who deal with both.

    “Fine, fire Dr. Constantine, but fire everyone else that commits the same act. Stop allowing undergrad and grad students to be abused by professors.”

    I agree completely.

    “… but please stop being so dismissive of racism on college campuses until you have had more discussions with the individuals that actually carry the burden of facing it.”

    Again, you haven’t a clue what discussions and experiences I have or haven’t had. Either show the way to those of us who you’ve decided are wholly ignorant, or peddle the indignant victimhood elsewhere – perhaps on your own site, which I’ll link to for the benefit of anyone reading this:

    http://auntjemimasrevenge.blogspot.com/

    I partially agree with your call for black academics to use the Constantine mess to shore up questions about due process and, as we’ve both said, the way we deal with plagiarism. I’d just rather see all academics take the issue seriously. I couldn’t care less whether they were white or black.

  5. And a question for you, Professor – I see the following warning on your blog:

    “This blog is protected by the red, the black, and the green, sisses! Therefore, parental discretion is advised, comments are welcomed because on this blog freedom of speech prevails, but watch what you say or one bad sista will layeth the smackdown on that ass with unadulterated and unapologetic pleasure!”

    Does that apply to other sites, too?

  6. Matt -

    Thanks for your reply. It was a predictable response, but I knew that when I posted.

    I asked about race because you referred to Dr. Constantine as “race-baiting.” And you clearly don’t like her work and she writes predominantly about race. It was a just question and you clearly don’t support scholarship about race by your own words -

    “I find the majority of race-scholars to be useless”

    That comment exposed a great deal of ignorance right there. You’re not a professor, you’re not a Ph.D, you’re not a published scholar, you’re not an expert on race or diversity, but you can roundly dismiss the work of educated and trained scholars who focus on race and diversity because it doesn’t fit your limited ideology and experience. Amazing.

    And I don’t see the point of your posting the “tongue and cheek” disclaimer on my blog – most folks that come to my blog know that most of those words come from a old rap song and old phrase from the WWF’s The Rock. Completely in jest about the angry black woman stereotype, but you clearly didn’t know that.

    And who said you were not free to comment? I just asked you not to be so dismissive. Have a broaden view. Are you now whining because someone came on your blog and disagreed with you? Don’t have a space for comments then.

    Instead of scouring my blog to find something you thought would be negative to post(wrongly), you could have engaged in a real discussion by posting your view under my post on Dr. Constantine. I would have welcomed your perspective.

    That’s why nothing ever changes. You as the white man know everything about everything and the person of color is as “indignant victim” if they share a perspective or experience different from yours. I don’t agree with Dr. Constantine’s tactics, but your comments make her actions understandable.

    Good luck with your work. It is extremely important, no matter the politics. I’m sorry you are so close-minded.

  7. “You as the white man know everything about everything…”

    This may be true, despite my lack of a PhD.

    “…and the person of color is as “indignant victim” if they share a perspective or experience different from yours.”

    There are white indignant victims, too. It’s another one of those colorblind things. Victimhood is an incredibly egalitarian principle.

    “I don’t agree with Dr. Constantine’s tactics, but your comments make her actions understandable.”

    Jeez, I never knew I was such an ignorant, hate-filled racist. I should probably come clean about something…

    I…

    I…

    I listen to John Gibson’s radio show.

    There, I said it! [Mark Levin, too!]

    This blogging software must have screwed up again – I think it deleted the section you wrote validating Constantine’s scholarly contributions and replaced it with tripe about how I’m an ignorant status-quo racist.

  8. Colin says:

    “That comment exposed a great deal of ignorance right there. You’re not a professor, you’re not a Ph.D, you’re not a published scholar, you’re not an expert on race or diversity, but you can roundly dismiss the work of educated and trained scholars who focus on race and diversity because it doesn’t fit your limited ideology and experience. Amazing.”

    Must be nice up there in that ivory tower. Or is that too white?

  9. Francis says:

    I’m really amazed by the lack of intelligence in this matter. Both in this investigation and in these blog posts. It has been proven at least twice that the allegations against this professor are valid. The professor in question has been removed from her position by the university and her reputation as a scholar and academician have been tarnished. That is not to say that the work she has done previously is not up to par or should be thrown out completely. I believe that any work that has been labeled as plagiarized should be disregarded in scholarly conversations but to classify her or others who write about race as “useless” is a matter of opinion (uninformed and narrow opinion in my eyes). The inability of individuals to see how race plays a part in one’s everyday interactions is very common and a lengthy thread that continues to weave the reality of racism into the world. Do I believe that race played a part in her being fired? No, I don’t. Do I believe that race plays a large part in people’s views on this matter? Yes, I do.

    It worries me that someone who is entrusted with the education and development of future psychologists has such a lack of respect for those in her care. It pains me that her lack of integrity is one that affects all people of color in a world where race is very important (although some individuals here would disagree). Her actions not only shame herself, but they also shame those students who work with her and tarnish the name of the very institution that is giving me a doctorate.

    Oh and to mjishernameo . . . if your kid was as gifted as you think he is, he probably wouldn’t be in community college.

  10. Francis,

    Thanks for the comment – I’m continually surprised at how many NYC city, Dept. of Ed. and CUNY employees read my site during the day. If they just made an agreement to throw me a $250,000 salary to write a weekly newsletter for them, I think they actually might save money on productivity.

    I do want to clear up a few things in your comment. Professor Tracey sure did a mouth-frothing, unhinged number on that ‘useless’ comment.

    The truth is that much of race, diversity and gender/sex-themed scholarship is not terribly valuable, in my opinion – ignorant and uninformed as that may be. I pointed to a specific piece of Constantine’s that I thought to be lacking. I believe it is available online in part or in full, I forget which.

    That has absolutely nothing to do with the inherent value of the subject. If I recognized that a good baseball player fails to get a hit 70% of the time – the majority – that doesn’t mean that I dismiss or discount in any way his 30% success rate or the individual successes that make up that 30%. Tracey’s logic is flawed, and you’ve repeated her mistakes.

    It’s also worth noting that her genuine work is not to be dismissed because of other plagiarism. It is to be dismissed on its own lack of merit, which is, of course, debatable.

  11. Francis says:

    The weekly newsletter might be a good idea. The salary you’re suggesting seems a bit inflated. As for the productivity of CUNY employees, I don’t disagree, however, doubt that a newsletter would do anything to improve matters in that area. I’m currently collecting data for my dissertation at this college and use my friend’s office computer while she teaches. The department she works in is somewhat empty as many staff either leave early or gather in the conference room for three hour lunches.

    That aside. I think that as to the value of research in the area of race/diversity we will have to agree to disagree. I personally, see no value in the work that she (Constantine) has done (ever) but have come to that conclusion based on being asked/forced to read a majority her research in courses I’ve taken in my graduate study. I also have my own personal opinions about her as a person (based on actual interactions) and I believe that also influences my opinions of her work. I guess what I was saying in my previous post is that I’m wary of making/forming opinions based on ignorance. And by ignorance I mean lack of information not intelligence. That isn’t to say that I’m not guilty of making uninformed opinions, as everyone is. I just believe that reasoning/logic should be supported by a bit more than “because I think/said so”.

    I’m still unsure as to the mistakes that you believe I repeated. My comment cautioning not to throw the baby out with the bathwater wasn’t directed at you as much as it was a statement based on conversations I’ve had with others directly affected by this situation.

  12. Francis,

    “I guess what I was saying in my previous post is that I’m wary of making/forming opinions based on ignorance. And by ignorance I mean lack of information not intelligence.”

    Really, why do you keep insisting that I haven’t read any of her work, or that I’m largely unfamiliar with race/diversity scholarship? This is starting to be a bit offensive.

  13. Francis says:

    I think it’s somewhat amusing that you’re offended and that you insist that my comment is directed “at” you. If you read the quote that you just posted, you’ll see that I wrote “I’m wary of making/forming opinions . . .” not “I’m wary of people who make/form opinions”. There was no implied meaning or hidden agenda in that statement. I do, however, think it’s telling that you’ve read into it the way you have.

  14. Francis,

    You’re right, I misread your comment – it makes more sense now that you pointed out what you meant. Not that you should have had to, I didn’t read it carefully in the first place. Don’t get too eager with the psych analysis, I just woke up from a nap and flubbed a little reading comprehension.

    Also, $250k is a little steep upon reflection. I’ll just take whatever Constantine was getting.

  15. Nicole Cross says:

    Mainly to Professor Tracey,

    I cannot believe how many of you are making racism such an issue here. Plagiarism is what it is no matter who is guilty of it. I am a white female and I am currently working on my Doctorate and I am offended reading these posts. I have traveled a similar path of many other students of many other races. Why does everything have to be so black and white. If someone finds race-related work useless that is their opinion and does not make them racist just by admission of that. Not every white person is out to get the “minorities”. Last I checked, the white male was the new minority and all they get is accusations of being racist at any given opportunity. I am not racist but I am very weary all the time of being accused of it. So many people that are as ignorant as you accuse white people to be are the ones jumping to conclusions. I hope that one day you can wake up and be cleared of all that hatred in your heart because it seems to be weighing you down.

  16. anonymous says:

    To Ms. Constantine:

    One of the most important life lessons we all have to learn as we move through life is: Move on.

    When you began work at Teachers College there were many problems at Teachers College and in your department that festered long before your first day. Some were financial. Others included ideological and personality clashes among faculty and a pointless collage of courses that do not prepare students for actual work in their field. The most misleading and deceptive was the “appearance” of an enlightened, mature and evolved staff and curriculum that supposedly reflected this. The problems were several. These problems needed to be resolved from the top down. But, when school leadership and administration do not know how to resolve problems, and do not listen to what needs to be changed to the benefit of all tied to a program or school, things get uglier and can take a turn for the worst.

    Perhaps the most important thing you have to share with others is that no matter how many hurdles you jump and how hard you work in any work setting, someone will always conspire against you. This may be due to jealousy, inept, incompetent leadership, a grudge at having you around, or about the game of being in an environment where the rules are constantly changing to the benefit of those who hold the power and the cards. I am sure that in your work toward your credentials that you were told indirectly if not directly that plagiarism is not allowed and could cost one one’s credibility, reputation and career. One’s hard work and sacrifice to get to a certain point could become lost and destroyed. The funny thing is that TC’s supposedly open outward message of diversity does not reflect TC’s actual nature. The old guard has the power and is intent on keeping the power it holds.

    Teachers College has a casual concern for development of students into skilled, knowledgeable professionals. Its objective is to stay afloat financially, which is every schools’ objective. Your old department, the Counseling department’s main purpose and point is to be an additional source of revenue for the school. Period. Point blank. Pity for past, present and future students who do not see this at the door. It showed a “tolerance” for “diversity initiatives” provided that some money could be made from them. Again, the point was money. Revenue. You might have come to know this as the years passed and your own eyes opened.

    Despite the distress and sheer aggravation in your experience at TC, there is a bright side: you no longer have to deal with the fraud, sabotage, and hypocrisy that is Teachers College. Your eyes are now open. Good for you.

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