In a statement released this afternoon, the University of Missouri announced it has fired Melissa Click, the media professor who was filmed calling for “muscle” to protect student protestors from journalists during campus demonstrations in November.
Pam Henrickson, chair of the University of Missouri Board of Curators, wrote the bulk of the statement and stated that the board believes Click’s “conduct was not compatible with university policies,” citing her specifically her decision to “encourage potential physical intimidation against a student.”
After reviewing the report and Dr. Click’s response, and, after extensive discussion, the board voted last night in executive session to terminate the employment of Dr. Click. She has the right to appeal her termination. The board went to significant lengths to ensure fairness and due process for Dr. Click.
The board believes that Dr. Click’s conduct was not compatible with university policies and did not meet expectations for a university faculty member. The circumstances surrounding Dr. Click’s behavior, both at a protest in October when she tried to interfere with police officers who were carrying out their duties, and at a rally in November, 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.
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. 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.
Though Click’s call for “muscle” was ultimately what propelled her into infamy, the school cited several incidents—including Click helping to block a car in the October Homecoming parade, as well as a confrontation with a different student photographer just before the “muscle” comment—in its justification for firing her.
Click, who received outside law firm Bryan Cave’s report on Feb. 12 and responded a week later, will be able to appeal, and given the circumstances of the board’s decision, she may. Earlier this month, the American Association of University Professors sent a letter to Mizzou interim chancellor Dr. Hank Foley alleging that the school’s decision to suspend Click in January without a hearing violated her due process. Mizzou Faculty Council Chair Ben Trachtenberg repeated that claim to the Columbia Missourian in an interview after the announcement of her firing:
“The board had every opportunity to use our existing processes and chose not to,” Trachtenberg said. “Regardless of what one thinks about Melissa Click or her behavior, she was entitled to a fair process, not one created on the fly, containing at least one judge (Steelman) who had written in the Washington Post how the case should come out.”
Indeed, David L. Steelman, identified as a member of the Board of Curators, wrote an op-ed just days before Click was suspended calling for her to be fired. In her response to the report received by the board, Click wrote that it “omits a number of crucial descriptions and events that give context to my actions at both the MU Homecoming Parade on October 10, 2015, and the events on Carnahan Quadrangle on November 9, 2015.”
The Mizzou protests have remained a contentious political issue in the state. In January, more than 100 state lawmakers asked for Click’s head, and the victory of Concerned Student 1950—which ousted Mizzou’s chancellor and president—has evolved into a policy question in Missouri’s current race for governor. Here is the particularly purple-faced Peter Kinder, the current lieutenant governor who is running for the state’s top job, promising that he would make sure the school’s football team would never go on strike again.