Video surfaces of Missouri professor cursing at cops
Missouri Republican lawmakers on Monday renewed a call for the University of Missouri to fire Melissa Click, the assistant professor caught on video calling for “muscle” to remove a student journalist from a protest area last November.
Several lawmakers spoke out on social media after a second video of Click surfaced last week, this one showing her confronting Columbia police during an earlier protest at a homecoming parade through the streets of the the city last fall.
The video, captured by police body cameras, was posted to The Columbia Missourian’s YouTube channel.
It shows an agitated Click twice confronting police who were moving a group of predominantly black protesters off the streets. Protesters had blocked then-university system President Tim Wolfe’s red convertible. While the audio is unclear, The Missourian said Click cursed the second time she talked to police.
“I am sorry I cursed at a police officer while trying to keep the peace during the students’ demonstrations at the Homecoming parade,” Click said, expressing “regret” in a statement sent to The Star by Status Labs, the Texas company working with Click trying to restore her reputation. “I felt afraid for the students, who were being threatened with pepper spray and taunted by parade spectators.” She said she was drawn to stand in solidarity with protesters “because of their moving message of racial exclusion and the angry responses of the onlookers.”
Sen. Kurt Schaefer, a Columbia Republican, and Sen. Eric Schmitt, a St. Louis Republican, used Twitter to comment on the statement that interim Chancellor Hank Foley released on Sunday after the Click video was posted. In the statement, Foley called Click’s conduct in the second homecoming video “appalling.”
“Like many in our community, I watched newly released footage of Dr. Melissa Click directing a verbal assault against members of the Columbia Police Department during the homecoming parade in October 2015,” Foley said in the statement posted to the MU News Bureau.
Foley said he was not only disappointed but also “angry, that a member of our faculty acted this way … We must have high expectations of members of our community, and I will address these new revelations with the Board of Curators as they work to complete their own review of the matter.”
The curators called for an investigation of Click’s actions in the first video after the Columbia prosecutor charged her with assault in clashes with a student journalist at the height of student protests over racial issues at MU in November.
She agreed to a deal late last month to avoid prosecution by doing community service and staying out of trouble for a year. Curators suspended Click pending their investigation.
Monday on Twitter, Schmitt called the interim chancellor’s statement on the second video “late” and “toothless.” His tweet said: “Interim @Mizzou Chancellor Foley missed another opportunity to call for firing of Click.”
Schaefer tweeted: “Her actions have been appalling for months. Statements are not enough … Mizzou should terminate her employment now.”
Last month a group of more than 100 Republican members of the General Assembly in a letter to the Board of Curators demanded that Click be fired. Then last week the House Appropriations-Higher Education Committee voted to freeze MU’s budget, specifically citing Click’s continued employment as a reason.
While Foley refers to Click’s behavior in the videos as establishing a pattern of misconduct, the university Faculty Council pointed out last month that no member of the university community had filed a faculty irresponsibility charge against Click. Such action would have triggered an employment review process.
That statement from the council said that “some faculty who considered bringing a charge — having seen the video evidence — decided against doing so because Professor Click issued a heartfelt apology.”
In a series of recent interviews Click, an assistant professor of communication who is seeking tenure at the university, has said she should have “been much more respectful” in dealing with the student journalist. “I should have slowed down,” she said. According to an Associated Press report, Click explained that her call that day for “some muscle” was a call for help defusing the situation, not a call for violence.
Ben Trachtenberg, chairman of the faculty council, said on Monday that as far as he knew of no new faculty statement in support or against Click had been issued.
“There is a huge diversity of opinions among the faculty where Professor Click is concerned,” Trachtenberg said. “Some think she deserves to be fired, others don’t. But the overwhelming belief is that whatever action is taken, she deserves that it be done with due process.”
But he also said, “the university is under tremendous political pressure,” in this case.
Not so, said Curator David Steelman. “I feel absolutely no political pressure,” Steelman said. “I feel (the need) to do what is right for the students and the institution.”
Steelman, a Rolla lawyer appointed to the board last year, said that while the board has been criticized for getting involved with a personnel matter, he wanted the board to step in because faculty had not taken action to review Click’s behavior. In December a letter signed by more than 115 faculty members supporting Click was sent to university department deans, top administrators and the Faculty Council chair.
“When the process breaks down the curators step in,” Steelman said. He said he has questioned Click’s continued employment since the November incident.
“I have said that based on the first video she should be terminated,” Steelman said. After seeing the second video, “for me it indicates that what happened at the protest on the quadrangle was not isolated. I don’t think anyone questions that in both videos her conduct was not appropriate.”
He said curators expect a report from the investigation soon.
The Star’s Jason Hancock contributed to this report.