It’s shocking that we’re still talking about Melissa Click nearly six months after the incident that made her infamous. It should’ve gone like this: she intimidated and threatened violence against a student reporter at Mizzou; she got appropriately shit-canned from her position as a professor; she disappeared into obscurity. But there will always be outlets interested in rooting out the supposed “real story” behind people whose actions are indefensible at face value — thus, we have an extended profile in The Chronicle of Higher Education called “Being Melissa Click” in which Click seeks to relitigate the incident that thrust her into the public eye and perhaps rebrand herself as an unfairly persecuted crusader against injustice rather than an out-of-control campus firebrand who represented everything wrong with the modern collegiate experience.
Maybe the piece, which looks in-depth at what Melissa Click’s life is like now, isn’t meant to be a quasi-tragic exercise in partisan self-pity, but it sure comes off that way. This is thanks mostly to the fact that Click is allowed to narrate her own story through an extended interview. The most bullet point-able moment in the whole thing occurs pretty much right off the bat, when Click shifts the blame for her firing from her own actions to — wait for it — the color of her skin. “This is all about racial politics,” she says. “I’m a white lady. I’m an easy target.” That’s right. She was canned and has been the target of outrage from people who don’t think threatening students or journalists is kosher for a university professor because she’s white. Clearly, Melissa Click has taken some time to thoroughly soul search and has come to the correct conclusions here.
Click goes on to take issue with how her story was portrayed in the media as well. According to the piece: “The media subjected her to withering public scrutiny, she says, making her recognizable wherever she goes. ‘Batshit Crazy Professor Loses Temper With Student’ was the wrong headline, she says. The real story, if you ask her, was ‘Favorite Professor Fights to Support Black Students on Campus in Dangerous Situation.'” Of course it was. It was in her support for black students in the wake of a protest at Mizzou that she valiantly fought against the danger posed by a college kid trying to get a comment from her — in a public area on the campus of a taxpayer-funded university. The article also claims that, according to her supporters, she’s “less a shrill bully… than a victim of a social-media frenzy and of outside influence on academic affairs.”
That’s actually a common refrain running through the article: Click believes that thanks to the heat that came down on the University of Missouri from all corners of the country, her rights were violated because she wasn’t afforded due process in determining whether she should be dismissed. To some extent her discipline was fast-tracked — and certainly Click at least deserved fair treatment — but it’s easy to understand why the school would look at the video of Click shouting for “muscle” to remove Mark Schierbecker, a senior at Mizzou who had the temerity to violate student protesters’ self-annointed “safe space,” and not want to distance itself from her as quickly as possible. What she did was unequivocally wrong and uncalled-for and while she’s apologized for it in the past, that’s the admission she should lead every single comment on the subject with.
If you’re curious at all about Melissa Click’s backstory, the piece has plenty of that. At one point the author declares that Click’s former colleagues regard her as passionate but “annoyingly self-righteous.” It makes sense then that her Saul on the Road To Damascus moment at Mizzou was a previous student protest last October, where she locked arms with black students at a homecoming event and confronted a police officer who attempted to move her aside, telling him, “Get your fucking hands off me.” She says this energized her to take a stand on behalf of supposedly marginalized students. It’s also, coincidentally, part of what got her fired, as video of this incident only exacerbated the fallout from her meltdown with journalists a month later.
Maybe the most unintentionally amusing part of the whole thing is when Melissa Click’s husband confesses his bitterness over the treatment of his wife. According to him, she was merely doing what those engaged in higher education are supposed to do. “Academia is a place where you can follow your conscience,” he says. “Standing up for people who are trying to voice their concerns about their treatment shouldn’t be penalized.” This is a hilariously misguided comment for two reasons. The first is that she wasn’t penalized for standing up for anyone; she was penalized because she was, through the threat of physical violence, attempting the quash the First Amendment rights of some students — that would be the freedom of the press granted to journalists — in favor of others’ First Amendment rights to speak up and peaceably assemble. She just happened to agree with the latter group over the former.
The second issue is that Click’s husband’s account of what academia is supposed to be is laughably ironic given that, these days, college campuses are indeed a place where you can “follow your conscience” — as long as your conscience puts you strictly in line with whatever group on campus is shouting loudly about being marginalized and oppressed. If your conscience leads you anywhere else but under this particular tent, God fucking help you. If you’re a professor you’ll be threatened by students who want to see you lose your job because your position offends their fragile sensibilities and if you’re a student, well, you’ll either have an anonymous grievance filed against you or maybe you’ll just be warned that if you don’t cooperate, some “muscle” will come and take care of you.
“Being Melissa Click” ends with a couple of revealing nuggets. Click, it turns out, is apparently now editing an anthology on “fandom.” This is somewhat entertaining when you consider that her academic work included lengthy scholarly examinations of Fifty Shades of Grey and Twilight. And when the author of the piece walks with Click through the town where she lives, a black man reportedly greets her by shouting out her name in approval. Her response: “Black people love me.” No surprise she thinks this way given that she sees herself as a martyr to them.
Chez Pazienza was the beating heart of The Daily Banter, sadly passing away on February 25, 2017. His voice remains ever present at the Banter, and his influence as powerful as ever.