Madonna Constantine, the former professor of the Teachers College of Columbia University who reported a noose found on her door, has filed a lawsuit against Columbia for $200 million after she was fired for plagiarism.
Constantine says that her termination for plagiarism ruined her academic reputation. That would be understandable. It is cause for termination that is generally frowned upon by other academics. The issue will now come down to innocence and the relitigation of the question of plagiarism. The committee had found numerous incidences of pilfered work, but Constantine insists that there was a conspiracy between the head of her department and former faculty including an intriguing statement by her lawyer Paul J. Giacomo Jr. that “We had evidence of her original writing that dates back to the 1990s, but it was altered or dismissed.”
Constantine’s allegation of a noose on her door was questioned by some at the faculty and she sent an email to all of the students during the later controversy saying “As one of only two tenured black women full professors at Teachers College, it pains me to conclude that I have been specifically and systematically targeted.”
Of course, $200 million may be a bit high in terms of an academic’s worth and reputation. At this rate, Constantine could have asked for a small Caribbean island nation in damages.
The case will be an interesting fight. Generally, schools are given great deference in their internal affairs, but, when you fired someone for plagiarism, they have a right to challenge that decision. This could get quite ugly as each of these incidents are laid out in front of a jury.
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