University of Missouri assistant professor Melissa Click is out of work, fired by the school’s Board of Curators several months after she was captured on video calling for “some muscle” to physically intimidate a student journalist who was covering a campus protest.
The board voted 4-2 in favor of terminating Click. Board chairwoman Pam Henrickson and curator John Phillips opposed termination, while curators David Steelman, Donald Cupps, Maurice Graham, and Phil Snowden voted in favor of Click’s firing.
“The board respects Dr. Click’s right to express her views and does not base this decision on her support for students engaged in protest or their views,” Henrickson said, according to the Columbia Daily Tribune. “However, Dr. Click was not entitled to interfere with the rights of others, to confront members of law enforcement or to encourage potential physical intimidation against a student.”
Henrickson said the curators had hired investigators who reviewed videos and documents, and conducted over 20 interviews. In her statement, Henrickson cited the fact that – at the Homecoming parade – Click cursed at a police officer who was relocating protesters from the street. In addition, Henrickson noted that during the November 9 Concerned Student 1950s protest “when she interfered with members of the media and students who were exercising their rights in a public space and called for intimidation against one of our students, we believe demands serious action.”
“She has the right to appeal her termination,” Henrickson said. “The board went to significant lengths to ensure fairness and due process.”
Interim Chancellor Hank Foley said the process the curators used to fire Click was “not typical.”
“These have been extraordinary times in our university’s history, and I am in complete agreement with the board that the termination of Dr. Click is in the best interest of our university,” Foley said. “Her actions in October and November are those that directly violate the core values of our university.”
In January more than 100 Republican Missouri lawmakers sent a letter to the school’s top officials calling for Click’s termination. The letter charged that Click “failed to meet the obligations she has to her supervisors, fellow professors, University students, and the taxpayers of Missouri” when she called for “muscle” against the student reporters.
“The fact that, as a professor teaching in the communication department and school of journalism, she displayed such a complete disregard for the First Amendment rights of reporters should be enough to question her competency and aptitude for her job,” the lawmakers wrote. “It should be evident that these actions are inappropriate, illegal and unacceptable for a faculty member of the University of Missouri.”
In the letter, the GOP lawmakers also raised questions about Click’s research projects which her university bio states “involve 50 Shades of Grey readers, the impact of social media in fans’ relationship with Lady Gaga, masculinity and male fans, messages about class and food in reality television programming, and messages about work in children’s television programs.”
The Missouri House Budget Committee will consider a spending bill next week that cuts $402,000 from the Columbia campus budget – an amount equal to Click’s salary as well as that of her department chair and the dean of the College of Arts and Science – and $7.6 million from the University of Missouri System’s administrative budget.
State Rep. Chuck Basye (R) wrote to members of the Downtown Community Improvement District board that Click is a symbol that is hurting the university.
“Everybody that I talked to said it would be a step in the right direction and would show some leadership,” Basye said Thursday. “I firmly believe she should have been terminated after the first video.”
The Board of Curators had voted on January 27 to suspend Click with pay. That decision was criticized by the school’s Faculty Council and the American Association of University Professors.
Click “is a flashpoint that allows us to potentially begin to move away from a backward-looking dialogue to a more forward-facing dialogue,” state Rep. Caleb Rowden (R) said Thursday. “I think it would help” if she were fired.
In November, a group of student protesters called #ConcernedStudent1950, fueled by Black Lives Matter, forced university president Tim Wolfe to resign amid charges of failing to address racism on campus. School chancellor R. Bowen Loftin also resigned. The students put together a list of demands, one of which was for Wolfe to “acknowledge his white male privilege.” The protests spread rapidly to other college campuses across the country.
It was discovered, however, that Mizzou activist Jonathan Butler had falsified a key claim that was made against Wolfe – that he was hit by a car carrying the university president in the school’s homecoming parade. A video later revealed that Butler himself actually rushed toward the car.
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