Monday, May 2, 2016
Professor Melissa Click Just Doesn't Get It; She Was Not Fired at the University of Missouri for Being a White Lady
Professor Melissa Click was close to success at the University of Missouri. She had been recommended for tenure, the grant of which by the Missouri Board of Curators would probably be a formality. Instead, the Board fired her on February 24, 2016. She knows what happened, but doesn’t yet comprehend it. Professor Click became the public face of the demonstrations at the University of Missouri. She had supported the protestors at Homecoming and later in the November demonstrations. She had every legal right to do so. She provided assistance to them at the November demonstrations, including organizing supplies for the demonstrators. She had every right to do so. She had every right to confront a student photographer at the protest. She also had every right to argue with him. What she did not have a right to do was grab his camera and yell for muscle to remove the photographer. She crossed the line between protected speech and unprotected, illegal action. Her acts were captured on video, which went viral. The photo of her frenzied face went viral. Her career went down the tubes at that point She had become the poster child of the demonstrations. It then turned out that at the Homecoming demonstrations, she got in the face of a police officer who was trying to clear the streets. She screamed at him: “Get your [expletive deleted] hands off me.” She asked in a letter to the editor in the Washington Post on March 17, 2016: “What would our world be like if no one ever took a chance?” She failed to understand the impulse to shame those “whose best intentions unfortunately result in imperfect actions.” Professor Click should have remembered the old adage that “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” Actions have consequences. Actions even in the liberal ivy towers of academe have consequences outside the Academy. Legislatures have the power of the purse over public universities. The demonstrations and her acts went national. A backlash resulted. Missouri will be down about 1500 incoming students next fall. Applications, both by out of state students and African American students, are down sharply. It’s looking at a $32 million gap. Contributions are not going to fill that gap with the level of discontent by the alumni, parents, and the general public. Contributions, both to the academics and athletics, have plummeted. The University announced that there will be no merit increases this year for the faculty. New hires across the board will be kept to a minimum The demonstrators won nothing, except for the resignations of the University President and Chancellor. Missouri has been a purple state, but it is swinging conservative. The backlash is not just about the University, but also the riots in Ferguson. The conservative Republican Legislature threatened to cut funding to the University. She said in a lengthy article in the April 24, 2016 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education: “This is all about racial politics. I’m a white lady. I’m an easy target.” Does she really believe that she was terminated because she was a “white lady?” Does she not realize how absurd that statement is? That she was fired because she was white on a campus accused of discriminating against Blacks?” She was fired because she threatened violence against a student photographer. She was fired because she confronted a police officer doing his job. She was in Missouri. That didn’t help her case. She existed in a academic cocoon where progressive, if not radical, politics are accepted as the norm. Conservative voices often stay in the academic closet. Faculty and student soften chill the free exercise of speech by silencing conservative voices, even as commencement speakers. That is all too often the norm. But a faculty member threatening violence against a student is unacceptable. Ward Churchill and Steven Salaita paid for their words. She paid for her acts. Maybe her due process rights were violated by the University of Missouri in how they terminated her. Maybe, but her career is over at Missouri. It will be interesting to see if she lands a position at another major university.