Faculty are supporting assistant professor Melissa Click after Republican state lawmakers released their letter calling for her immediate removal for her “inappropriate and criminal actions” during campus protests in November, according to a Jan. 4 news release.
Click’s actions “constitute at most a regrettable mistake,” according to a letter of support released Tuesday by the faculty of MU. The letter is dated Dec. 14 and was signed by more than 100 faculty from different departments and schools.
The faculty credited Click with serving as “an ally to students who were protesting what they saw as their exclusion from and isolation at the University.”
Two letters from state lawmakers were sent to the UM System Board of Curators on Dec. 18. More than 100 House Republicans signed one letter, and 18 Senate Republicans signed the other letter. The senators also called for Greek Life and Leadership assistant director Janna Basler’s removal. Basler was placed on administrative leave but returned to work in December.
On Nov. 9, Click and Basler were involved in an altercation with student journalists on Carnahan Quad where students had set up camp in support of graduate student Jonathan Butler’s hunger strike. Butler and the campers were seeking UM System President Tim Wolfe’s removal from office.
In the viral video, Click is seen calling for “more muscle” to get a videographer out of the campsite. The campers asked for members of the media to stay away from their tents. The video was taken after Wolfe resigned.
On Tuesday, Gov. Jay Nixon said he didn’t agree with the intent of the Republicans’ letter, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“Anybody who saw that video… I can understand how completely unacceptable her behavior was,” Nixon told the Post-Dispatch. “The fact that people are upset, I’m OK with that,”
Click apologized a day later. However, the faculty’s letter notes that the apology didn’t end the controversy, and the criticism then shifted to a more personal nature.
“Much of the commentary in the press and on social media has gone beyond legitimate debate to ad hominem attacks on, and harassment of, Click personally, and has even included calls for her dismissal from the University,” the letter read. “In many cases, we believe, this commentary has been driven by outside groups with agendas external to that of the University.”
Thomas Bradbury, president of the MU Young Americans for Liberty chapter, said in an emailed statement that Click and Basler hurt MU’s image, and their continued employment continues to damage it.
“Melissa Click and Janna Basler’s abhorrent attempt to stifle speech and restrict first amendment rights last semester should prove these individuals too incompetent to be employed at the University of Missouri,” Bradbury said.
The lawmakers wrote that Click’s actions weren’t in line with her job as a professional representing MU and as an academic professional.
“Instead, Professor Click's comments served to inflame an already caustic situation that was clearly out of line,” the letter read.
Rep. Caleb Jones, R-Columbia, signed the letter and said it’s imperative that MU remove Click from her position quickly.
"At every tum, Click's actions were unacceptable and inflammatory in a situation where the students and the public needed and expected university employees to serve professionally and as a calming influence," Jones said in the news release.
Jones could not be reached for additional comment.
Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said in a statement that he expects more out of MU’s faculty and staff.
“The actions of both Basler and Click were unacceptable and inflammatory in nature, the university needs educators who display civility and patience even during emotional moments,” Schaefer said.
In the letter, the lawmakers questioned Click’s teaching aptitude, citing the fact that she was a professor in the journalism school but seemed to obstruct a journalist’s First Amendment right.
Click, a professor in the communications department, held a courtesy appointment with the School of Journalism, which she resigned from on Nov. 10. Journalism school Dean David Kurpius said in a Nov. 10 statement that Click didn’t teach courses at the school.
Despite resigning from her appointment, the lawmakers wrote that “it is exceedingly difficult to justify her continued service at the University of Missouri.”
The lawmakers also addressed Click’s research in their letters.
“Our constituents have expressed outrage at the fact she is using taxpayer dollars to conduct research on ‘50 Shades of Grey,’ ‘Lady Gaga,’ and ‘Twilight,’” the letter read.
Click has taught at MU since fall 2003, and her staff page describes her research interests as pop culture texts and audiences. The faculty wrote that Click “has earned her position through an outstanding record of teaching and research.”
Mizzou Democrats released a statement Tuesday night in support of academic freedom at MU. They said the Republican’s letter was a “gross overstep” as faculty employment is a university issue.
They also took issue with the critique of Click’s research.
“Unfortunately for our legislators, it is once again not under their domain to decide what can and cannot be researched at Mizzou or at any other university,” the statement read. “Academic freedom means that students and professors may pursue knowledge in whatever form it may take, 50 Shades of Grey included.”
In the letter, the lawmakers wrote that while they recognized there “may be some value in pop culture studies,” Click’s actions have led to increased public scrutiny.
The lawmakers called on the university to send a strong message and “decisively to root out bad behavior.”
On the other hand, the faculty asked the university to support Click and defend “her first amendment rights of protest and her freedom to act as a private citizen.”
Click has not responded to requests for comment.