Board of Curators strays from faculty review process in Click firing decision

In the absence of members of the MU community taking action, the Board of Curators felt it needed to do its own investigation, communication department Chairman Mitchell McKinney said.

Melissa Click’s firing Feb. 24 for her actions during last semester’s Concerned Student 1950 protests has raised questions about the UM System Board of Curators’ decision-making process.

After no one from MU filed a charge against her, the UM System Board of Curators stepped in. The board suspended Click and pursued their own investigation of her actions, ultimately resulting in her dismissal from the university.

A charge of unethical or irresponsible action may be brought against a faculty member by students, faculty members, teachers, administrators and board members, according to the UM System Collected Rules and Regulations’ Procedures Governing the Disposition of Charges of Faculty Irresponsibility.

According to the procedures, those filing a charge must sign and specify the act which they constitute as unethical or irresponsible. The charge must include details such as the time and place the act was committed, witness names and the conditions under which the alleged act occurred.

According to the Collected Rules and Regulations:

  • After the accuser puts the charge in writing, it should go to the provost to review the charge’s validity by reviewing its details and discussing it with the accuser.
  • The dean of the accused faculty member’s academic division then reviews the charge’s procedural detail to avoid vague claims.
  • Once the divisional dean and the department chairperson verify the charge’s validity, they should immediately provide the accused with a full copy of the charge, including the name of the accuser. The chairperson then holds informal meetings with the accused and the accuser in an attempt to reach reconciliation.

If a resolution is not reached, the accused has the right to an informal hearing by a panel of seven faculty members who investigate and form a written report of the case.

Citing the Collected Rules and Regulations, the faculty committee’s report may conclude the following:

  • The charge is unfounded or there is insufficient reason to believe the accused has violated professional ethics or acted irresponsibly, and the matter should be dropped without prejudice to the accused.
  • There is sufficient reason to believe the accused has acted unethically or irresponsibly. No recommendation as to sanction should be made, but an assessment of the seriousness of the alleged violation, including whether it is serious enough that termination of appointment should be considered, shall be made.

The divisional dean and the provost can either recommend that a formal hearing be held or that the accused's appointment be terminated under the UM System Academic Tenure Regulations.

The Board of Curators bypassed these procedures because no one from MU’s campus filed a charge.

The board appointed investigators who reviewed relevant documents including video recordings and interviews of more than 20 witnesses, according to a statement made by Board of Curators Chairwoman Pam Henrickson when announcing Click’s termination. Click was also interviewed with counsel representation twice, and they interviewed — or attempted to interview — each of the witnesses Click stated as relevant and included their information in the report.

“The board believes that Dr. Click’s conduct was not compatible with university policies and did not meet expectations for a university faculty member,” Henrickson said in the statement.

Some faculty members don’t believe Click received due process through the Board of Curators’ investigation.

The curators’ process regarding Click’s case “violates the norms of faculty governance,” Faculty Council wrote in a statement Feb. 25. “By creating a new process as it went along, the Board denied Professor Click the fair procedures that she, like all faculty, had been promised.”

The statement cited the lack of a fair hearing with witnesses before dismissal, the use of an outside lawyer to investigate and no formal meeting with the board as violations of Click’s rights under MU’s procedures.

“By flouting the Collected Rules and Regulations of the University, the Board of Curators has caused needless injury to the University of Missouri,” the statement read.

Many faculty members expressed concern over their job security because of the board’s actions.

According to the Academic Tenure Regulations, tenure is the right to be free from dismissal without cause. Click was to be reviewed for tenure this year, but was subject to dismissal with cause before the review process was complete.

“When (college or university faculty members) speak or write as citizens, they are to be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations,” the regulations read. “They should anticipate that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances and actions.”

Click’s actions and subsequent dismissal have initiated debates on First Amendment rights.

“Any faculty member, staff member or administrator, anyone on this campus has the freedom of expression and freedom of speech,” communication department Chairman Mitchell McKinney said. “They can say anything they wish, and they can express themselves and their views. There were other elements, different from freedom of speech that led to Melissa Click’s firing, including an assault charge.”

The Board of Curators, despite popular favor, has the power to step in when it does not agree with campus action or lack thereof; the curators adjusted to MU’s lack of action.

“Some of the voices suggesting that the process was not used or was unfair may feel that no review was needed and that’s why, perhaps some were reluctant to or didn’t bring a charge of faculty irresponsibility against Melissa Click,” McKinney said. “I wish, initially, that we on this campus had used the university’s faculty irresponsibility process to review the actions of our faculty member and perhaps had we done so, I don’t know if the Board of Curators would have stepped in.”

Edited by Taylor Blatchford |

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