On Oct. 9, a noose was found hanging from the office door of Madonna Constantine, an African American professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College and a member of the American Counseling Association, again shining the national spotlight on racism in the United States.

Early that morning, Constantine’s coworker and research partner Derald Wing Sue, also an ACA member, was told about the noose by a colleague. Sue, a professor of psychology and education in the university’s Department of Counseling and Clinical Psychology, notified the authorities and immediately called Constantine to inform her of the situation before she arrived on campus.

Constantine, also a professor of psychology and education, as well as director of the Teachers College Cultural Winter Roundtable on Psychology and Education, was stunned and outraged by the overtly racist act, according to Sue. Counseling Today was unable to reach Constantine for comment. Sue indicated that she had been inundated with interview requests from major news outlets across the country in the days following the incident and was currently taking a break from the media spotlight.

“She was affected powerfully by seeing (the noose),” Sue said. “No doubt it was racial hatred action targeted at African Americans. But her first reaction was how this was going to affect her students and the rest of the campus. That’s typical of her to be concerned with other people.”

New York City police were summoned to the campus and immediately began investigating the incident, which they are treating as a hate crime. Shortly thereafter, university administrators sent an e-mail blast to all faculty and students informing them of the police presence and denouncing the racist action.

The following day, during an impromptu rally at the college, Constantine encouraged the campus community to remain strong during this time of adversity. “I’m upset that our community has been exposed to a blatantly vile incident like this. Hanging the noose on my office door reeks of cowardice and fear on many levels,” she said. “I want the perpetrator to know that I will not be silenced.”

Constantine coauthored the book Addressing Racism: Facilitating Cultural Competence in Mental Health and Educational Settings with Sue. She is regarded as a distinguished voice in the field of multicultural counseling and has been very outspoken on matters of race and equality.

“Madonna is one of the most respected scholars in multicultural studies,” Sue told Counseling Today. “People who enter this field know that they are challenging the prevailing ideology, and some expect to encounter resistance. When you talk about race, you are pushing powerful buttons, so some reactions may not necessarily be positive.”

Constantine was the recipient of the 2001 ACA Research Award for her influential studies of multicultural counseling competence. The Society of Counseling Psychology and the Society of the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues have also recognized her work. She serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development (a publication of the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development, a division of ACA), the Journal of Counseling Psychology and the Journal of Black Psychology.

Following the rally in support of Constantine, the college community gathered at a town hall meeting to discuss its concerns with a panel of school officials. University administrators stood together and once again condemned the perpetrator and asked that the Teachers College community unite in dialogue against racism.

In the days following the incident, police requested campus surveillance video of the building in which Constantine’s office is located. The video was turned over to the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force but showed only the entrance to the building, not the interior offices.

Sue said the hate crimes unit has interviewed him three times, and he has “the feeling that it’s going to be very difficult to find the person responsible.” He noted that the noose will be tested for DNA evidence, but unless the perpetrator is in the national fingerprint and criminal history system maintained by the FBI, there is no way of determining who it belongs to.

Speaking with Counseling Today roughly one week after the incident took place, Sue said the campus remained in turmoil as false reports and theories continued to pop up in the college’s classrooms and in the news media as police investigated the possibility that the culprit is a disgruntled student or fellow faculty member. According to open court records, Constantine filed a defamation lawsuit against another professor earlier this year. Constantine was also asked to provide a list of all her students to police.

When asked about those theories, Sue responded, “ I’m not going to even comment on that. There are people’s reputations at stake here. There are rumors everywhere, and it’s all speculative.” He added that he sees the disturbing incident as a learning opportunity and hopes the campus community will continue to hold open discussions about issues of race and racism.

“On behalf of the American Counseling Association, of which Madonna Constantine has been a longtime member, I want to express sadness over the despicable act directed toward this award-winning and well-respected colleague,” said ACA President Brian S. Canfield in a statement published on the association’s website and submitted to several counseling Listserv communities. “This was a senseless expression of hatred, one that causes understandable anger and outrage in many of us. Ironically, this act underscores the critical importance of Madonna Constantine’s work and that of other professional counselors who seek to improve society by helping others gain insight into their frustrations and the inappropriate behaviors which sometime result.

“The ACA Code of Ethics, which serves as a guide to ethical behavior and best practices in counseling, is infused with a strong emphasis on multicultural and diversity considerations for professional counselors and mandates that counselors practice with cultural sensitivity. It is unfortunate that the troubled perpetrator(s) of this cowardly act are so out of step with the culturally pluralistic and multiethnic nature of modern American society. We can only hope that the perpetrator(s) will be swiftly caught and that the consequences of their action may ultimately lead them down a path to becoming better members of society. The American Counseling Association fully supports Madonna Constantine and Columbia University as they continue to investigate this incident.”