Columbia professor charged on counts of plagiarism

Professor Madonna G. Constantine of Columbia University’s Teachers College was found guilty last week of plagiarizing from a junior colleague and two former students.

According to Teachers College’s press release, Constantine was charged with “numerous instances in which she used others’ work without attribution in papers she published in academic journals over the past five years.”

The announcement followed an 18-month investigation after the chair of Constantine’s department received complaints from several students and another professor, Christine Yeh. Teachers College hired outside law firm Hughes Hubbard & Reed to consider the case.

“In total, the investigators found a real pattern – two dozen instances of similar language from these three individuals,” said Teachers College spokesperson Marcia Horowitz.

In January, Teachers College’s president and provost offered to keep the conclusions of the investigation confidential if Constantine agreed to resign.

According to her lawyer, Paul Giacomo Jr., Constantine’s accusers had in fact plagiarized Constantine’s research. Giacomo mentioned that his client plans to appeal to Teachers College’s faculty advisory committee.

In an e-mail sent to faculty and students, Constantine accused Teachers College of racial bias. “[A]s 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,” she said. “I am left to wonder whether a white faculty member would have been treated in such a publicly disrespectful and disparaging manner.”

Constantine’s official censure follows a racially-motivated hate crime last October, when a noose was hung on Constantine’s office door. At the time, students had rallied on her behalf. The investigation is still unresolved.

Giacomo suggested connections between the October incident and Constantine’s plagiarism case. “[It is] not a stretch of the imagination” to suspect the noose was “an additional way of intimidating my client,” he said.

Teachers College denied Giacomo’s allegations. However, Teachers College announced that Constantine will be retained with penalties. “She is still a tenured professor at Teachers College,” Horowitz said.

New York Times

Violent episodes

trouble UMass Amherst

Over the past three weeks, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst has seen an alarming number of violent incidents, many involving alcohol usage. These range from fighting at an off-campus party to attempted murder and rape.

In the most serious episode, racial slurs escalated into a stabbing, allegedly in self-defense. UMass student Jason Vassell is being charged with the attempted murder of a non-student in Vassell’s dormitory.

Five other students face criminal charges in an off-campus brawl from early February. One UMass student faces charges of attempted rape from an on-campus case. Police are currently investigating a fight from outside the campus’s high-rise dorms from last weekend.

A student forum was held last week over the issues raised by the violence. For some, violence is inevitable in a campus of 25,000 students, 12,000 of whom are residential.

Amherst Police Chief Charles L. Scherpa concurred, stating that the recent violence is a continuation of a longstanding campus culture of drunken rowdiness. “Every weekend, we could make hundreds of arrests,” Scherpa said.

In 2006, 2,000 UMass students rioted after the school’s football team lost the national Div. 1-AA championship game. A similar sports-related incident occurred in 2003, when 1,000 students “overturned cars, set fires and threw bottles at police” following a Red Sox playoff game.

University officials are downplaying the violence, pointing to progress that has been made over the past few years.

Two years ago, the University authorized town police to investigate on-campus disturbances. Binge drinking, according to student surveys, has also decreased 25 percent through the efforts of alcohol education and outreach programs.

“We feel we’ve made progress,” UMass spokesperson Ed Blaguszewski said. “But still these episodes happen, here and at other campuses. We just have to remain vigilant.”

Town police are currently working with campus police to regulate out-of-control off-campus parties, where much of the violence has occurred. Campus police patrols have also increased particularly around dormitories.

The Boston Globe

College fundraising increases

In a survey of 1,023 colleges and universities, the Council for Aid to Education reported that donations and grants have increased 6 percent since the previous fiscal year to a total of $30 billion.

One-third of these funds went to 20 schools that account for less than 1 percent of higher education in the United States. Stanford topped the list at a staggering $832 million, followed by Harvard at $614 million, and the University of Southern California, Johns Hopkins, Columbia and Cornell, raising $400 million to $500 million each.

Stanford’s success is part of a $4.3 billion capital campaign that began in October 2006. Beyond sizable bequests, many donations come from 56,000 individual gifts, including $100 and $10 contributions. Last year, Stanford raised an even larger sum of $911 million.

The top 20 list includes both private and public schools. Traditional sources of state funding have diminished in recent years, forcing state universities to court alumni and other benefactors to raise endowment figures. The Universities of Wisconsin, Washington, Michigan, Minnesota, Virginia, Indiana and California, San Francisco each received $252 million to $325 million in gifts.

Cary Nelson, president of the American Association of University Professors and professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, raised questions about colleges turning increasingly into fund-raising machines. “Harvard could buy and sell a number of countries around the globe,” he said. “It could pay the tuition of all its undergraduates, and its endowment would still grow. It is time for wealthy colleges and universities to begin asking themselves what their broader social responsibilities are.”

Many institutions, nonetheless, have used these funds to increase access to higher education. Harvard spokesperson John Longbrake also pointed to the benefits Harvard has bestowed on community. “Harvard and many other universities make enormous contributions to our nation in research, scholarship, medicine and the arts, due in large part to the resources we raise and invest,” Longbrake said.

New York Times

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