Columbia Professor Arrested for Assault on Female Colleague
“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
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