Former University of Missouri assistant communications professor Melissa Click is appealing her firing, which occurred last month. Her termination was connected to her participation in a race-related student protest, making Click believe that her expulsion was political in nature.
Click explained in a statement that her dismissal was not fair because the university’s officials had not followed normal school procedures used when reacting to faculty members’ wrongful conduct, according to the Associated Press. Over 100 state legislators called for her to be removed, most of whom were Republicans.
“In their decision to terminate my employment, the curators bowed to conservative voices that seek to tarnish my stellar 12-year record at MU,” Click wrote. “Instead of disciplining me for conduct that does not ‘meet expectations for a university faculty member,’ the curators are punishing me for standing with students who have drawn attention to the issue of overt racism at the University of Missouri.”
UM is managed by a Board of Curators made up of nine members appointed by the governor and on the advice of the Senate. No more than five members may belong to a single political party, as stated on the UM website.
On Monday, the American Association of University Professors announced that three members of the organization would visit the UM campus later in the month to conduct an investigation into the process used in Click’s firing. Other parts of their research will include finding whether the termination violated her due process rights and whether the institution’s conditions for tenure and academic freedom were intact.
Administrators pointed out that the 45-year-old Click had run-ins with police officers during the protests that took place in October. They added that she also had altercations with student journalists a few weeks later, which included a confrontation that was videotaped where she asked for “some muscle” to have a videographer removed from the area where the protest was taking place.
Click was recorded asking the police to remove their hands from students who were publicly objecting and cursing at a police officer who had grabbed her.
Activists claim that the public outcry came after administrators’ exhibited apathy toward campus racial issues. The Columbia chancellor and the system president resigned in the wake of the protests, which included one student’s hunger strike and a declaration from the football team that they would not play.
Click did apologize for her actions that she claimed were meant to keep protesters safe from retaliation. But in her statement, she said she would not acknowledge fault for her support of African-American students who have been the victims of racism at the University of Missouri.
The rallies against racial issues sent Missouri’s flagship institution of higher education into a tailspin and started a stream of like protests at universities and colleges across the nation, writes Susan Svrluga of The Washington Post. Lawmakers threatened to cut budgets at the university, but many members of the faculty stood staunchly on Click’s side.
The assistant professor became a factious figure whose actions began debates about academia, free speech, and whether the protests were much-needed wake-up calls to stop racial inequities or a signal that a university system was in turmoil with a campus population that was in conflict with the rest of the state.