AAUP report: former Mizzou prof. was fired because of 'political pressure'
A new report argues that disgraced former University of Missouri professor Melissa Click was fired due to political pressure, not for assaulting a student journalist at last year’s protests.
The report, put out by an investigating committee for the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), suggests that the Board of Curators decide to fire Click without first pursuing the standard disciplinary procedure for faculty because of “inappropriate political interference” by members of the Missouri legislature that the committee considers a threat to academic freedom.
Click, a former professor of communications at Mizzou, was caught on video in November threatening a reporter who requested an interview with her during an on-campus protest. Click immediately turned down the reporter’s request for comment and took a swing at his camera, eventually calling out for “some muscle” to help forcibly remove him from the protest.
She was suspended by the university just days after Columbia Prosecutor Stephen Richey filed an assault charge against her. Although charges were eventually dropped after Click agreed to a community service deal, a second video then surfaced showing Click harassing a police officer at an earlier protest, ultimately leading to her termination.
Now, however, the AAUP has released a report in opposition to Click’s termination on the grounds that the facts of her case are open to “varying interpretations.”
“As previously noted, Professor Click has not denied that she engaged in the conduct that ultimately led to her dismissal,” the report states. “The key facts relating to the charges of misconduct are thus not in dispute. Nonetheless, these facts are subject to varying interpretations, and there is considerable disagreement among faculty members at MU about their meaning and significance.”
The report then asserts that no “evidence exist[s] that Professor Click physically assaulted or obstructed any other individual, including police officers, on October 10,” despite two videos of two separate instances that suggest the contrary. Yet the report insists that “there is no evidence that Professor Click interfered in the slightest with anyone else’s rights to speak or assemble.”
Additionally, the report argues that Click’s termination was the result of political threats from state lawmakers rather than her behavior towards a student journalist.
“By threatening budgetary and other consequences and openly demanding the summary dismissal of a faculty member, members of the Missouri legislature exerted undue political interference in the case of Professor Click, and the threat of such illegitimate interference continues,” it continues.
There is, however, ample precedent for such legislative “interference,” since Mizzou is a publicly funded state school led by a board of curators whose members are appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate.
The university offered a rebuttal to the AAUP’s allegations, according to The Columbia Tribune, saying the Board of Curators felt compelled to take immediate action to prevent the controversy from festering and harming the university’s reputation further.
“When others failed to act, it was incumbent on the board to act and enforce those standards,” the statement declares. “Engaging any other process would have allowed questions to linger for such a time that the effects on the university’s educational environment would have been caustic.”
The AAUP report, written by a three-member committee of professors from other institutions, is scheduled to be considered next month by AAUP’s Committee on Academic Freedom, which will determine whether or not Mizzou should be placed on its censure list.
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