Missouri fires instructor who blocked student reporter, called for 'muscle'

Click was a symbol for critics of the protests

The University of Missouri Board of Curators voted 4-2 Wednesday night to fire Melissa Click, who gained national attention after a viral video showed her pushing a student reporter and calling for "muscle" to remove him. 

In November 2015, students at the University of Missouri-Columbia (Mizzou) camped out on the quad for days while protesting their experiences of racism on campus. At one point, protestors raised signs saying "No Media" and attempted to temporarily block reporters from the area. 

During the encounter, a local photographer captured a video of Click helping the protestors push back against reporters and calling "Who wants to help me get this reporter out of here? I need some muscle over here."

Click served as a communications professor at Mizzou. Until last November, she also held a courtesy appointment with the university's school of journalism, but she resigned that post in the wake of the video. 

In the following months, Click became a symbol for both critics of the national student protests and those who say universities stifle free speech. 

Earlier in February, a new video surfaced showing Click confronting campus police during a homecoming parade last October. The video also shows Click cursing at an officer who grabs her shoulder. 

The board's chair, Pam Henrickson, released a statement Thursday saying that the board arrived at its decision after spending weeks reviewing documents, videos, witness interviews, and more. Click was interviewed twice with lawyers present and was allowed to submit a response to the investigation. 

"The board went to significant lengths to ensure fairness and due process for Dr. Click," the statement says.

In explaining the board's decision, Henrickson pointed to both the October and November incidents, writing that 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." Henrickson also wrote that the decision was not based on Click's opinions or support for student protestors. 

As a result of the videos, the university system is facing not only public scrutiny but also potential state funding cuts. State Rep. Tom Flanigan (R), chair of the House Budget Committee, announced last week that the committee supported cutting $8 million from the University of Missouri's appropriations. In his announcement, Flanigan said Click's actions factored into the decision.

Click has until early March to appeal the decision (Svrluga, "Grade Point," Washington Post, 2/25; Pérez-Peña, New York Times, 2/25; Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed, 2/25).

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