Chat with the Chancellor includes several conversations about Melissa Click
Interim Chancellor Hank Foley: “It’s been a learning experience for me.”
Feb. 27, 2016
The crowd was small at first for this week’s Chats with the Chancellor, an informal conversational forum hosted by interim Chancellor Hank Foley.
Students and professors milled about beforehand and discussed recent campus events, especially Thursday’s firing of assistant communications professor Melissa Click by the UM System Board of Curators. When Foley arrived, he was candid with his conversations. He didn’t speak with reporters during the forum.
Click initially sparked controversy when she tried to remove a student journalist from the Concerned Student 1950 campsite in November, and was further criticized after another video was released where she physically and verbally confronted police at the Homecoming parade in October. She was fired as a result of an investigation by the Board of Curators.
One individual at Friday’s gathering told another he did not like that the curators used Click’s behavior in October as a reason to fire her because she did not interfere with a reporter during that incident.
The other individual said Click’s firing would not help the fact that MU does not have many black faculty members.
“It’s hard enough to get black faculty to come here,” he said. “This decision just makes it 10 times harder.”
When Foley joined their conversation, that same man asked the chancellor why he changed his stance on Click’s behavior between the press conference in late January and the emergence of new video footage in early February. At the January news conference, Foley seemed to support Click, calling her “a model citizen in other ways,” but later said in a statement that her behavior in the new video was “appalling.”
“My initial statement and outlook on (the situation) was deemed inadequate,” Foley said.
The man asked who deemed it so, and Foley replied, “Just about everybody.”
The man said Click’s firing was an unfortunate situation.
“The whole episode could have been avoided,” he said, and Foley agreed.
Another student told Foley that it had been “a tough week” at MU.
“I still have more faith in you than the last guy,” the student told him, referring to former Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin.
Foley thanked the student and said, “That’s not saying much, but I appreciate it.”
He went on to tell the student that he believed Dr. Patrice Delafontaine was “pushed out” as dean of the School of Medicine partly because he was sensitive to issues facing the black community, and that Delafontaine was reinstated for this reason.
In another conversation, this one not including Foley, one person told a small group that the controversies about constitutional rights and due process brought up the issue of privacy as well as respect.
“This is an opportunity, this perfect storm that has been created, where we are delineating the fine line that separates the responsible free exercise of our First Amendment rights with the privacy and legal rights of others,” the person said.
He said the incident gave MU the responsibility of making that distinction and acting upon it in the national spotlight.
“I’m afraid that conversation really isn’t being talked about,” he said. “We’re still trying to point fingers and use scapegoats and stuff like that.”
Foley told other people in attendance that he previously thought the situation “would blow over” and that he did not expect the Board of Curators to fire Click.
“It’s been a learning experience for me,” he said.
Edited by Katherine Knott | firstname.lastname@example.org