An administrator at the University of Missouri who confronted a student photographer during the #ConcernedStudent1950 protest earlier this week has been placed on administrative leave, according to university officials.
Janna Basler, director of Greek Life, was relieved of her duties Wednesday. She had appeared in a viral video Monday that showed her among a group of students pushing photographer Tim Tai, who was trying to shoot photos of the campus protest.
Three of the university’s Greek Life student groups issued a statement of support for Basler, saying they were “disappointed” in the video but loyal to Basler because of her past work on their behalf.
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The action against Basler came a day after a media professor who appeared in the same video issued a public apology and resigned her courtesy appointment with the university’s school of journalism.
Assistant professor Melissa Click continues to teach in another department, but left the journalism school amid outcry that she and Basler interfered with journalists at a university famed for educating them.
On Tuesday, Click issued a statement saying she had apologized to a reporter by phone for her role in the incident.
Later on Tuesday, David Kurpius, dean of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, posted a tweet announcing that Click had resigned her courtesy appointment with the school.
Click continues teaching media in the school’s communications department. The courtesy appointment had allowed her to teach also in the School of Journalism, which is a separate entity.
Basler and Click were captured on video along with a large crowd of student protesters confronting journalists. In the most widely-circulated video, Click was seen confronting another photographer, not Tai. Even so, both became the most well-known participants in the incident.
Earlier Tuesday, relations between the media and protestors improved a day after they clashed over access to a protest area. Protestors removed anti-media signs and welcomed reporters.
In a notice being handed out Tuesday morning, the protestors acknowledged that the media had a First Amendment right to be there and it was important to tell the story of what was happening.
Tai, a 20-year-old senior from St. Louis studying journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia, was working for ESPN.
In the video, he tells the students that he was trying to do his job and that the First Amendment that protects their rights to stand there also protects his rights to be there.
Tai later said via Twitter that he didn’t mean to become part of the story. He simply was trying to do his job.
ESPN hired Tai Monday morning shortly before MU president Tim Wolfe resigned.
Right after the resignation, Tai ran to the quad where the protestors had been camping out to get photos of their reaction.
“At that point, that was the most impactful picture I was going to get,” Tai said in a telephone interview late Monday.
After about five or 10 minutes, supporters or organizers said it was over and that the media needed to leave.
“I don’t want to make this us versus them,” Tai said. “I don’t want to make it media versus students or media versus activists or media versus protesters. These people have good intentions.”
On the other hand, journalism, especially photojournalism, is intrusive, he said. And as a journalist you have to have the confidence to believe that while it is intrusive, uncomfortable and awkward, there is a greater purpose.
“There is a picture to be made that symbolizes more than just the specific moment, that it symbolizes the human experience that other people can relate to,” Tai said.
Tai said he doesn’t know why it got into a shoving match because he was not intruding on the campsite.
“I don’t have any ill will towards these people,” he said. “I think they were very well intentioned. I guess they saw other principles more important than my right to be there and document the situation.”
Covering news when people don’t like you being there is part of the profession, Tai said. The events Monday were national news that took place on a public lawn and involved people who made themselves public figures.
Tai said he was horrified to see the video and embarrassed that he become part of the story. But his job was to make a picture. That’s why he stood his ground.
He added he was very disappointed when he found out later that university faculty and staff members were among those shoving and trying to deny access to the media.
“I don’t like when subjects and reporters are at odds,” Tai said. “I don’t think that leads to good journalism. I think the best journalism happens when it’s a collaborative process.”
In a statement Tuesday morning, David Kurpius, dean of the Missouri School of Journalism, said the school was proud of Tai for how he handled himself during the protest.
“The news media have First Amendment rights to cover public events,” Kurpius said. “Tai handled himself professionally and with poise.”
Kurpius also clarified that Click is not a faculty member in the School of Journalism. She is a member of the Department of Communications in the College of Arts and Science.
Click holds a courtesy appointment with the School of Journalism. The School of Journalism faculty members were reviewing the appointment Tuesday, Kurpius said.
“The events of Nov. 9 have raised numerous issues regarding the boundaries of the First Amendment,” Kurpius said. “Although the attention on journalists has shifted the focus from the news of the day, it provides an opportunity to educate students and citizens about the role of a free press.”