The AAUP has dealt a blow to the University of Missouri by concluding that the firing of Melissa Click violated her rights.
The American Association of University Professors said the university’s board of curators, which voted by a 4-2 decision to fire Click after months of controversy regarding her conduct during student protests, "violated basic standards of academic due process."
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Click became a household name after a video surfaced showing her blocking a student videographer from filming near a tent city set up on the Missouri campus in November. For more than a week, the tent city had been home to members of Concerned Student 1950, a group seeking "the liberation of all black collegiate students."
The original video shows a human wall composed of students, faculty, and alumni formed around the camp to keep the media from advancing. When videographer Mark Schierbecker approached Click, the communications professor grabbed Schierbecker’s camera and told him he needed to leave, saying, "I need some muscle over here!"
Another video later surfaced showing Click berating members of the Columbia Police Department. She joined members of Concerned Student 1950 to block former UM System President Tim Wolfe’s car at the University’s homecoming parade, and when told to leave, responded to the police with, "Get your fucking hands off me!"
Neither Click nor the AAUP attempt to defend her actions, which Click has publicly apologized for more than once, but the AAUP finding suggests the board "set a dangerous precedent that threatens the security of position and, consequently, the academic freedom of all faculty members at the University of Missouri."
Will Creeley of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education said he agrees.
"FIRE is concerned any time a university doesn’t follow published procedure," he said. He believes, however dismal the University of Missouri’s reputation, the administration has a chance to redeem itself.
Creeley also agrees with the AAUP’s findings, that the Missouri State Legislature, which questioned Melissa Click’s research on 50 Shades of Grey and Lady Gaga, played a role in her firing. Over 100 Republicans issued a joint letter demanding her dismissal, and the Legislature also denied MU a statewide funding increase after the University did not take action regarding Click.
Click has not publicly commented on the AAUP’s findings, but said in an earlier statement endorsing the investigation that she was fired "for standing with students who have drawn attention to the issue of overt racism… The board of curators is using me as a scapegoat to distract from larger campus issues."
Interim Chancellor Hank Foley declined to comment on the matter. Members of the board of curators, however, issued a statement saying they continue to stand behind their actions.
According to the statement, "The Board respectfully disagrees with the AAUP’s conclusion that academic freedom is threatened. The University will continue to hold our faculty in high regard and to respect the policies and procedures in place to ensure academic freedom and due process."