The University of Missouri-Columbia has been censured by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) over the recent firing of former communications professor Melissa Click for her involvement in student protests last year.
A unanimous vote landed the university on the censure list for the third time in a warning to potential faculty members that due process is not a guarantee at the school. The AAUP cited "extraordinary political interference" by members of the Missouri legislature, adding that it "had a significant, if not decisive, impact on the decision to terminate Professor Click's appointment."
Over 50 schools across the nation are on the censure list. The school was originally placed on the list in 1973 after a number of professors were disciplined without due process for their involvement in on-campus demonstrations during the Vietnam War. However, the university was then removed from the list when it added due process procedures, reports Ashley Jost for The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
An investigation into the firing of Click was implemented by the AAUP in March just weeks after the school's Board of Curators had decided to fire Click in a 4-2 vote, writes Victoria Stroup for The Washington Free Beacon.
"The Board of Curators continues to stand behind our actions [sic], which were in the best interests of the University, regarding Dr. Melissa Click's misconduct," the board said in a statement. "As the AAUP's report acknowledges, this case did not involve a denial of Dr. Click's academic freedom. But the AAUP's report disregards the seriousness of her misconduct and reaches inconsistent and unsupported conclusions."
The decision came after video footage surfaced of Click requesting "muscle" in order to remove student journalist Mark Schierbecker from a protest camp that had been set up by members of Concerned Student 1950 in the quad at the school in an effort to prevent the student media from covering the protests. Students were protesting what they called the indifference shown by the school system toward several racist incidents that occurred on campus.
Although Click did apologize for the incident, she was removed from her position at the university after an assault charge was filed against her by Columbia prosecutor Josh Richey. Those charges were dropped after she agreed to take a deal that included performing community service.
Video footage was also found involving Click in separate incidents, such as during the homecoming parade helping Concerned Student 1950 members block the car of former System president Tim Wolfe. She could also be seen criticizing members of the Columbia Police Department. The footage resulted in a letter being written by over 100 Missouri lawmakers requesting that the university take action against Click.
While the AAUP did acknowledge Click's involvement in the protests, they said that despite the video footage, they were not convinced that her actions were enough for the university system to fairly dismiss her from her position, arguing that Click was not given a fair adjudicative hearing before she was fired.
"In light of the board's action against Professor Click and in the context of legislative threats to the institution and unresolved administrative turmoil, academic freedom and shared governance at MU are endangered," it said.