Missouri educator fired over role in protests files appeal

A former University of Missouri assistant communications professor is appealing her firing last month over her role last year in a race-related student protest, suggesting that her ouster was political.

Melissa Click, in a statement Tuesday, insisted her Feb. 25 dismissal by the university system’s governing curators was unfair by failing to follow the normal, on-campus procedures for reacting to faculty misconduct. More than 100 state lawmakers, mostly Republican, had called for her removal.

“In their decision to terminate my employment, the curators bowed to conservative voices that seek to tarnish my stellar 12-year record at MU,” Click wrote. “Instead of disciplining me for conduct that does not ‘meet expectations for a university faculty member,’ the curators are punishing me for standing with students who have drawn attention to the issue of overt racism at the University of Missouri.”

Click, whose firing followed her suspension in January, added that the governing board “is using me as a scapegoat to distract from larger campus issues, but their termination of my employment will not remedy the environment of injustice that persists at MU.”

A spokesman for the curators, John Fougere, said Tuesday that board had no comment.

Click’s statement came a day after the American Association of University Professors announced that three members would visit the Columbia campus later this month to investigate the process leading to Click’s firing and whether it violated her right to due process and “whether conditions for academic freedom and tenure at the institution are sound.”

Click’s supporters have questioned the curators’ move, by a 4-2 vote, to decide Click’s fate rather than allowing the school to use its normal, on-campus procedures for reacting to faculty misconduct.

“The AAUP’s action underscores my belief that the curators have overstepped their authority,” Click said Tuesday.

In voicing support of 45-year-old Click’s firing, top university administrators cited her run-ins with police during October protests in Columbia and with two student journalists weeks later on the Columbia campus, including a videotaped confrontation where she called for “some muscle” to remove a videographer from the protest area.

During the October matter, Click was recorded telling police to get their hands off students during a protest, then hugging the students and cursing at an officer who grabbed her.

The protests, spurred by what activists said was administrators’ indifference to racial issues on campus, prompted the Columbia chancellor and system president to resign after the protests escalated, with one student’s hunger strike and an announcement by members of the football team that they would refuse to play.

Click has said she regretted her actions, claiming her actions were meant to safeguard protesters from retaliation. But in Tuesday’s statement, she wrote that “I will not apologize for my support of black students who experience racism at the University of Missouri.”

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