University of Missouri faculty members on Tuesday came out in support of Melissa Click, the embattled MU professor who famously asked for some “muscle” to move a student journalist away from protesters during anti-racism protests on campus in November.
On Monday, a group of more than 100 Republicans in the state General Assembly demanded, in a letter to the MU Board of Curators, that the university immediately fire Click, an assistant communications professor at the Columbia campus.
As a counter to the lawmakers’ letter, MU faculty made public a letter that had been sent in December to university department deans, top administrators and the Faculty Council chair. The letter was signed by more than 115 faculty members.
“We wish to state in no uncertain terms our support for Click as a member of the University of Missouri faculty who has earned her position through an outstanding record of teaching and research,” the faculty letter stated.
“We believe that her actions on November 9 constitute at most a regrettable mistake, one that came, moreover, at the end of several weeks during which Click served alongside other faculty and staff as an ally to students who were protesting what they saw as their exclusion from and isolation at the University,” it said.
The lawmakers, in their letter, accused Click of grabbing the student journalist’s camera and calling on those around her to bring “some muscle” to remove the photographer and other reporters from the area. Video featuring her went viral and garnered nationwide attention.
“As a professional representing our university, Click failed to meet the obligation she has to her supervisors, fellow professors, university students and the taxpayers of Missouri,” the lawmakers’ letter said.
Instead of promoting a safe and stable learning environment, Click’s actions “served to inflame an already caustic situation that was clearly out of line.”
Click already has resigned a courtesy appointment at MU’s School of Journalism. But the lawmakers want her gone altogether.
Her actions amounted to a “complete disregard for the First Amendment rights of reporters,” the lawmakers’ letter said.
It was signed by more than 100 House members and 18 senators.
Last month a Columbia prosecutor said he was considering whether Click should be charged with assault for grabbing a student photographer’s camera. MU student and videographer Mark Schierbecker filed a report against Click in November the same day the video was taken.
Click did not responded to messages and a call to her office, and a Mizzou representative said university administrators were not commenting, referring to the matter as a personnel issue.
Pamela Henrickson, who chairs the university’s Board of Curators, said she spent time at the Capitol on Tuesday talking to legislators. But she did not say whether she went specifically to discuss the Click letter.
In an email to The Star, Henrickson said that “the leadership of the UM System is committed to listening to legislators and considering their input as we move the university forward. We appreciate the support that the University System has long received from the General Assembly and we look forward to working closely with legislators to ensure that the UM System remains one of the state’s most valuable assets.”
University faculty said they hope their letter has weight as a public statement showing support for Click’s continued employment at MU.
“One of our main concerns in writing is to uphold the University’s standard procedures for evaluating faculty performance and conduct,” said Andrew Hoberek, an MU English professor. “These procedures rely on a range of material that goes beyond that presented in either letter. As our signatures attest, we do believe that our respect for Professor Click and her work is supported by her record.”