Black On Campus
Higher Education and the African American Experience

Columbia Professor Arrested for Assault on Female Colleague

November 10th, 2009 by Ajuan Mance

“It was a very unfortunate event. I didn’t mean for it to explode the way it did.”

– Columbia University Professor Lionel MacIntyre on his physical altercation with female college Margaret Camille Davis

111009assault1wclLionel McIntyre


Lionel McIntyre, the Nancy and George Rupp Associate Professor in the Practice of Community Development and the director of the Urban Technical Assistance Project at Columbia University, was arrested on Monday and charged with assault for his Friday evening attack on colleague Camille Davis.

The New York Times reports that Lionel McIntyre and Camille Davis, a theatre production manager for Columbia’s School of the Arts,  were having drinks at the Toast, when they got into a heated discussion about the issue of white privilege. The Times reports that, “Professor McIntyre liked to engage fellow patrons on the subject of race, according to one regular customer, Daniel Morgan, who considers himself a close acquaintance of both Professor McIntyre and Ms. Davis.”

The New York Post provides this account of the events leading up to McIntyre’s arrest:

The professor, who is black, had been engaged in a fiery discussion about “white privilege” with Davis, who is white, and another male regular, who is also white, Friday night at 10:30 when fists started flying, patrons said.

McIntyre, who is known as “Mac” at the bar, shoved Davis, and when the other patron and a bar employee tried to break it up, the prof slugged Davis in the face, witnesses said.

“The punch was so loud, the kitchen workers in the back heard it over all the noise,” bar back Richie Velez, 28, told The Post. “I was on my way over when he punched Camille and she fell on top of me.”

The other patron involved in the dispute said McIntyre then took a swing at him after he yelled, “You don’t hit a woman!”

“He knocked the glasses right off my face,” said the man, who would only give his first name as “Shannon.” “The punch came out of nowhere. Mac was talking to us about white privilege and what I was doing about it — apparently I wasn’t doing enough.”

McIntyre had squabbled with Davis several weeks earlier over issues involving race, witnesses said. As soon as the professor threw the punch Friday, server Rob Dalton and another employee tossed him out.

“It was a real sucker punch,” Dalton said. “Camille’s a great lady, always nice to everybody, and doesn’t deserve anything like this.”

Davis was spotted wearing sunglasses yesterday to conceal the black eye. Reached at her Columbia office, she declined to comment on the alleged attack.

McIntyre was released without bail at his arraignment last night.

“It was a very unfortunate event,” he said afterwards. “I didn’t mean for it to explode the way it did.”

I’ll be following the developments in this case, and I’ll definitely post when and if I learn anything new.

I am still having a bit of difficulty making sense of how a seemingly reasonable faculty member could engage in a physical attack on a colleague because a disagreement over this topic. White privilege is certainly a challenging and emotional topic, one that can be very frustrating to discuss both for people of color who are daily exposed to their benefits that white skin privilege confers and for those white people who perceive any assertion that they have “privilege” as an attempt to hold them individually culpable for the existence of racism.

McIntyre is an experienced professor, though, and thus should have been quite experienced in engaging productively with those whose understanding of white privilege differs from his own. I hope that his egregious behavior does not have any long-term negative impact on the racial climate on the Columbia University campus; I hope that Ms. Davis recovers from her injuries without any permanent damage; and, finally, I hope that Prof. McIntyre gets professional help for his anger management issues.

Posted by Ajuan Mance


Posted in African Americans, Current Events, Higher Education, race

13 Responses

  1. None

    You hope he gets “anger management” help — I hope he gets the same punishment that I, as a white male would get if I’d punched a black female after a heated race discussion.

    Where’s the outrage my black friends?

  2. Marty

    He needs to be fired.

  3. mephistofan

    your column represents the sort of mindless black racist dribble that apparently motivated the good professor lose it. How about growing up, taking some responsibility and cutting out the racist crap. I suspect that the volatile professor made it unto the Columbia faculty as a result of the Privileges conferred upon blacks by white liberal institutions. Don’t you agree?

  4. Ajuan Mance

    Marty and None — I will definitely post as information becomes available on this case. African American professors have been let go from their positions for far less than this.

    Ironically, though, I have a feeling that this will not result in McIntyre’s dismissal. Anecdotal evidence of physical assaults committed by white male professors on people affiliated with their institutions indicates that universities has not always or even mostly dismissed faculty members over this kind of behavior.

    Sadly, I feel that institutions are reluctant to release tenured faculty members whose infractions do not violate the terms of their contracts; and, alas, “off-clock” behavior at a local bar may well be considered to be behavior unrelated to Professor McIntyre’s contract.

    If he is convicted of a crime, that might be construed as having some bearing on his ability to perform his duties. Alas, though, institutions do not have a long history of treating seriously transgressions against women faculty and staff of any ethnicity.

  5. Marni

    I don’t care if the professor is white, black or even purple. I will not disclose my sex, race or religious affiliation, but will say I would not feel comfortable in this professors classroom. Someone with such “anger management” issues should not be teaching on any level. He needs to be fired prior to something like this happening with a student. I’m tired of people getting away with criminal activity – in this case a violent assault. You are responsible for your actions. No matter what “set you off”. Stand up, take responsibilty. And Columbia, do your part: fire him. Protect your students – and faculty. It is what it is: a violent, criminal act – punishable by law. Why would any one excuse such actions? Hey Ajuan, if it was your Mom he hauled off and punched in a bar, would you say “Mom, I hope your friend gets help with his anger management issues.”? I certainly hope not.

  6. CowboyOKC

    A teachable moment. Perhaps a “Beer Summit” is in order. Sarcasm on!

  7. Ajuan Mance

    Hi Cowboy OKC,
    Thanks for your post. I think a beer summit is probably the last thing we need in this case. With any luck, there won’t be any need for such a curious public performance of…well, I’m not sure what it what was being publicly performed. In this case, a crime has actually been committed, the perpetrator has admitted his crime, and the wheels of justice have begun to turn.

  8. Ajuan Mance

    Thanks for your comment. There are two institutions that will have to mete out justice in this case. One is the NYC criminal justice system. As I wrote in response to CowboyOKC, those wheels are already turning. McIntyre will be tried or will plead guilty or no contest and he will be sentenced.

    The other institution is Columbia University, and it remains murky and unclear what will come to pass on that front. As I have mentioned in a previous comment, colleges and universities have a very spotty history in terms of how they deal with faculty and administrators who commit crimes and/or harrassment against other faculty, students, administrators, and staff. I don’t see how Prof. McIntyre could be effective as a classroom instructor again, particularly because of the issue you raise in your comment. Many — possibly even most — students would feel very intimidated by him, as would most of his colleagues.

    A step that is often taken, though, when a professor has been found to have committed a crime or an act (or acts) of harrassment against students is that he is no longer permitted to teach required courses. The effect of this, in the case of McIntyre, would be to give students, faculty, and administrators — especially women students, faculty, and administrators — the feeling that their safety doesn’t matter.

  9. slicky

    Black privleg= bad grades, bad resume, bad work ethic, but a really good job and the expectation that everyone agrees with the nonsense you learned in your African American studies program.

  10. CowboyOKC

    There is never any reason to abuse a women, period! If one can not speak his thesis with out violence; than he does not deserve his degree, nor the position he holds as an instructor of students.

  11. rob

    Alcohol and heated debate; not good.

  12. KT Mack

    I hope younger black university students understand that they can be better than this chump. Whining and crying about how things used to be won’t get you anywhere unless you make that your career, which some do. There really isn’t a typical white person anymore than a typical black person.
    I mean heck, did Michael Jordan’s sons grow up with more privilege than 99.9999999999% of so called white folk?

  13. Pierre

    Harvard – Racial incident with a black professor. Columbia – Racial incident with a black professor. Who’s next? Let’s start a pool. I’ll take Yale – anyone else? Brown? Princeton?

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