(Columbia Daily Tribune) – Assistant Professor Melissa Click, captured on video calling for “some muscle” to remove reporters from a campus protest site, was fired Wednesday by the University of Missouri Board of Curators, Chairwoman Pam Henrickson said in a prepared statement.
The board voted 4-2 in favor of termination during a closed session in Kansas City, with Henrickson and curator John Phillips opposing the move, UM System spokesman John Fougere wrote in an email Thursday. Curators David Steelman, Donald Cupps, Maurice Graham and Phil Snowden voted in favor of firing Click.
Click did not respond to a message seeking comment Thursday. The board earlier voted to suspend Click with pay on Jan. 27.
“The board respects Dr. Click’s right to express her views and does not base this decision on her support for students engaged in protest or their views,” Henrickson said in the prepared statement. “However, Dr. Click was not entitled to interfere with the rights of others, to confront members of law enforcement or to encourage potential physical intimidation against a student.”
The statement from Henrickson cited Click’s behavior at the Homecoming parade, when she cursed at a police officer who was moving protesters out of the street, and on Nov. 9 at Concerned Student 1950’s protest site on the Carnahan Quadrangle. Her actions at the protest site, Henrickson said, “when she interfered with members of the media and students who were exercising their rights in a public space and called for intimidation against one of our students, we believe demands serious action.”
The investigators hired by the curators reviewed videos, documents and conducted more than 20 interviews, Henrickson said.
“She has the right to appeal her termination,” Henrickson said. “The board went to significant lengths to ensure fairness and due process.”
Interim MU Chancellor Hank Foley released a statement Thursday admitting the process the curators used to fire Click was “not typical.”
“These have been extraordinary times in our university’s history, and I am in complete agreement with the board that the termination of Dr. Click is in the best interest of our university,” Foley said. “Her actions in October and November are those that directly violate the core values of our university.”
Foley said the process and investigation that led to Click’s termination had been fair.
Click’s employment has become a political liability for the university. The House Budget Committee will consider a spending bill next week that cuts $402,000 from the Columbia campus budget — the amount of Click’s salary as well as that of her department chair and the dean of the College of Arts and Science — and $7.6 million from the UM System’s administrative budget.
State Rep. Chuck Basye, R-Rocheport, wrote to members of the Downtown Community Improvement District board that Click is a symbol that is hurting the university.
“Everybody that I talked to said it would be a step in the right direction and would show some leadership,” Basye said Thursday. “I firmly believe she should have been terminated after the first video.”
Click “is a flashpoint that allows us to potentially begin to move away from a backward-looking dialogue to a more forward-facing dialogue,” state Rep. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, said Thursday before the announcement. “I think it would help” if she were fired, he said.
The curators’ earlier decision to suspend Click has been criticized by the MU Faculty Council and the American Association of University Professors.