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Columbia holds campus meeting after noose is found

Columbia University convened a meeting of education students and faculty after a hangman's noose was found on the door of a black professor's office, an incident the school's president called "an assault on every one of us."

The noose was discovered at the office of Madonna Constantine, a professor at Teachers College, the graduate education school affiliated with Columbia in New York. The incident is under investigation by the hate-crimes task force of the city police, Teachers College President Susan Fuhrman said today in a statement.

Nooses are emblems of the hangings of blacks that occurred in the U.S. for decades, mostly in the South. Racially charged incidents involving nooses have been reported recently at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and the University of Maryland. Students from throughout the U.S. staged protests last month over incidents triggered by nooses displayed at a high school in Jena, Louisiana.

"This is an assault on African Americans and therefore it is an assault on every one of us," Columbia President Lee Bollinger said in a separate statement. "I know I speak on behalf of every member of our communities in condemning this horrible action."

The noose was discovered at 9:45 a.m. yesterday at an office building on West 120th Street, New York Police Detective Brian Sessa said.

Hate-Crimes Investigation

"I think the noose thing was despicable and disgraceful," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters today. "I don't know if it was a crime or a sick joke, but we take every one of these very seriously and our hate-crimes unit is investigating."

The mayor is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

Teachers College spokesman Joe Levine said the building has security cameras on the ground floor. People entering the building are required to show security officers a valid college ID or be accompanied by someone who has one, he said.

Columbia students this afternoon held an on-campus protest, attended by Fuhrman and Constantine. Later, faculty, staff and students at Teachers College met in a session that was closed to the news media.

"What came out of the meeting was a very powerful sense that the community is pulling together," Levine said in an interview.

In a statement issued before the meeting, Fuhrman said, "The Teachers College community and I deplore this hateful act, which violates every Teachers College and societal norm."

Racism Scholar

Founded in 1887, Teachers College has been affiliated with Columbia since 1898 and enrolls about 5,100 full- and part-time graduate students. It was the highest-ranked graduate school for education in the latest U.S. News & World Report listing.

Constantine, a professor of psychology and education, is co- editor of "Addressing Racism: Facilitating Cultural Competence in Mental Health and Educational Settings" (Wiley, 2006). She is the director of the Cultural Winter Roundtable on Psychology and Education, an annual national conference.

"I am upset that the Teachers College community has been exposed to such an unbelievably vile incident, and I would like us to stay strong in the face of such a blatant act of racism," Constantine said in a statement. "Hanging the noose on my office door reeks of cowardice and fear on many levels. I want the perpetrator to know that I will not be silenced."

Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, in Birmingham, Alabama, said that "there has been quite a rash over the last two months" of noose incidents. The Intelligence Project tracks U.S. hate groups.

Columbia's calling the meeting was reported earlier today by the Associated Press.