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Missouri House proposes to eliminate Melissa Click’s salary from budget

Melissa Click, a professor of communications, was caught on video last year pushing a student journalist and calling for “some muscle” to remove him from a protest site on the school’s campus. She was charged with assault but made a plea to avoid jail time.
Melissa Click, a professor of communications, was caught on video last year pushing a student journalist and calling for “some muscle” to remove him from a protest site on the school’s campus. She was charged with assault but made a plea to avoid jail time.

A key House committee chairman Tuesday specifically proposed eliminating Melissa Click’s salary as part of a plan to cut $8 million from the University of Missouri’s budget next year.

House Budget Chairman Tom Flanigan, a southwest Missouri Republican, said the decision to reduce the university’s funding “was not made lightly.” While the reductions target Click and her actions, that’s not the sole motivation, he said.

But pointing to the tumult that has roiled the University of Missouri’s flagship Columbia campus, Flanigan said the cuts would come in two areas:

▪ Roughly $400,000 from the University of Missouri’s Columbia campus budget, specifically targeting the salaries of Click, the chair in communications and the dean of arts and science.

▪ $7.6 million in reductions to the budget of the system administration, which primarily consists of the board of curators, president’s office and other multicampus functions. That’s roughly half the amount appropriated last year.

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The university system received $434 million in state funds for the budget of the current fiscal year that ends July 1.

Click, a professor of communications, was caught on video last year pushing a student journalist and calling for “some muscle” to remove him from a protest site on the school’s campus. She was charged with assault but made a plea to avoid jail time.

“For several months, legislators have had stories relayed to us from current and past students, staff and faculty of a vast bureaucracy that rivals the Pentagon in terms of red tape and delays,” Flanigan’s statement to the media said.

“Additionally, appropriators are deeply concerned with the faculty waiver process, how conflicts of interest are addressed and the inability to terminate employees who participate in conduct unbecoming the University of Missouri and our state,” the statement said. “The committee substitute ensures administrators, not students, feel the pain of these budget actions.”

But it’s unlikely the target of these cuts — Click and university administrators — will be the ones who feel the pain, said Rep. Stephen Webber, a Columbia Democrat.

“These retaliatory cuts aren’t going to impact administrators. They are going to hurt students in the form of decreased educational opportunities and higher tuition fees,” he said.

Interim University of Missouri System president Michael Middleton noted that the 2016 legislative session hasn’t even reached its halfway point, leaving plenty of time to convince lawmakers that punishment isn’t required.

“The board of curators and our UM System leadership team will continue to demonstrate to our legislators the considerable value that the system administration brings to our campuses and the taxpayers of our state and will do so by being completely accountable, transparent and fiscally prudent in our actions and leadership,” Middleton said in a statement.

The $27.1 billion state budget proposal still must be approved by the House Budget Committee and the full House before it is sent to the Senate. In addition to the cuts to the UM System, Flanigan’s proposal also trims the amount of money that the governor had requested for K-12 education, pumping $23 million into the school foundation funding formula. That figure would increase to $70 million if revenue estimates come in higher.

Gov. Jay Nixon had requested $85 million in additional K-12 funding.

Jason Hancock: 573-634-3565, @J_Hancock

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