BY HANK REICHMAN
Melissa A. Click, the communications professor whose actions during a student protest last fall sparked controversy, has been fired by the University of Missouri’s Board of Curators, according to a statement from the system. The action was apparently taken last night, in a closed session, by a vote of 4-2.
“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 statement reads, in part. It continues: “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.”
In an accompanying statement, Interim Chancellor Hank Foley said: “The process the Board of Curators used to reach a determination about Dr. Click’s employment at the university is not typical—but these have been extraordinary times in our university’s history, and I am in complete agreement with the board that the termination of Dr. Click is in the best interest of our university. Her actions in October and November are those that directly violate the core values of our university. I can assure you—as Board Chairwoman Henrickson noted—that there has been fairness in this process and investigation.”
Click was caught on camera in November calling for “some muscle” to help remove a student journalist from a campus protest. Her actions made her a target of those who argue that free speech on campuses is being curtailed by student protests against institutional racism. Click apologized for her actions, both publicly and to the individual journalist, who has since declared that his video was being used as an excuse by legislators seeking to target the university’s budget. Click was eventually charged with assault, but pleaded not guilty and agreed to do community service to avoid prosecution.
In January 117 state lawmakers signed a letter calling for Click’s termination. Her colleagues countered with a letter of support for the embattled professor signed by more than 100 Missouri faculty members. A state lawmaker this week threatened $7.7 million in budget cuts for the Missouri system, including a $400,000 cut for the flagship campus: the equivalent of the combined salaries of Click, her department chair, and her dean.
The board’s decision to fire Click comes about a month after it suspended her and enlisted a law firm to investigate the incident.
In a letter mailed on February 2, the national AAUP called on Missouri to lift the suspension. The letter said the suspension violated due process, specifically AAUP standards relating to the imposition of sanctions against faculty members as set forth in Regulations 5 and 7 of the AAUP’s Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure.
In a letter last month, the Faculty Council on the flagship Columbia campus asked the board to back off and let the university judge Click’s actions according to a procedure, spelled out in its bylaws, designed to “protect the rights of accused faculty while also protecting the university’s interest in identifying and responding to faculty irresponsibility.” Faculty leaders on the university system’s other campuses this week endorsed that position.
In a statement today, the chair of the Columbia campus’s Faculty Council, Ben Trachtenberg, said the board “made a terrible decision.” He went on: “Regardless of one’s opinion of Professor Click’s behavior or fitness for duty, she was entitled by our rules — rules that the Board of Curators has approved — to a fair process. She didn’t get it.”