Maybe you immediately recognize the name Melissa Click. If you do, I feel sorry for you because there’s a good chance you’re either a) an underappreciated journalist, or b) someone who spends way too much time watching dumb, fragile college kids lose their minds on the internet. For the blissfully uninitiated, Click was the University of Missouri assistant professor who somehow forgot that Mizzou has one of the best journalism programs in the country and that its student journalists not only have the right to cover big stories in their own backyard, they do so exceptionally well. I say Click was a Mizzou professor for reasons I’ll get to in a second.
Last November, during a “campus uprising” at Mizzou that saw some students expressing outrage over the administration’s supposed neglect of their concerns over racially charged issues, video captured one young journalist being roughed up as he tried to document the event. Tim Tai was in a public area at a taxpayer-funded school when he was surrounded by a large group of very irate, very special snowflakes who insisted he leave the “safe space” they had set up and declared free of intrusion by anyone not them. These students shouted Tai down, claiming he wasn’t allowed to be there because they said so, and over time they physically pushed him out of the way. While all of this was happening, he tried patiently to remind these kids that the very same First Amendment that protected their speech and assembly protected his rights as a member of the press.
When it was all over, another young journalist who shot the video of Tai being harassed asked Melissa Click, who was there in solidarity with students as part of the protest, if she’d like to comment. Her response was to threaten him. “Hey, who wants to help me get this reporter out of here?” she shouted, then: “I need some muscle over here!” A separate video released later also showed Click at a different campus protest shouting profanities at a cop and locking arms with students to prevent him from clearing a road. In other words, Melissa Click is a really lovely person, exactly the kind of reasoned professional you want shaping the next generation of young minds. She’s not at all a bitter ideologue who has no fucking clue that her opinion isn’t the only one that matters and that she can’t go around trying to silence those who disagree with her. Granted, I just summed up the entire perpetually persecuted campus activist movement, but you get the idea.
Well, the good news is that it looks like you can only get away with being a raging asshole on campus for so long -- because Mizzou announced today that it was firing Melissa Click, effective immediately. The University of Missouri Board of Curators voted 4-2 to rid themselves of Click’s good cheer. “The board believes that Dr. Click’s conduct was not compatible with university policies and did not meet expectations for a university faculty member,” said Pam Henrickson, UMBC president. “When she tried to interfere with police officers who were carrying out their duties and… when she interfered with members of the media and students who were exercising their rights in a public space and called for intimidation one of our students, we believe demands serious action.” Serious action, like “don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.”
The board’s highlighting of the fact that Mizzou’s quad is in fact a public space is important, because it doesn’t matter how hurt you are -- student or faculty -- by the meanies in the big, bad outside world, you don’t get to commandeer taxpayer-funded areas and declare them your own little fiefdoms. You don’t get to force others to conform to your notion of how the world should supposedly be, no matter your good intentions. As naive kids, maybe -- maybe -- they have an excuse for behaving like idiots, but Melissa Click should’ve known better. Her job as a professor was to be the adult in the room and prepare these students for the real world but instead she reduced herself to their level. Her call -- but when that involves harassing others and trying to deprive people of their rights in the name of supposedly protecting rights she’s deemed more valuable, well, that gets you fired. As well it should.