Remember Melissa Click?
She’s the communication professor at the University of Missouri who asked for some “muscle” to oust a student journalist from a campus racism protest.
Now Missouri lawmakers want to muscle her out of a job. On Monday, 100 Republicans in the state’s General Assembly wrote a letter demanding the school fire her. On Tuesday, 115 faculty members wrote a letter defending her.
According to the Kansas City Star, lawmakers said Click’s outburst “served to inflame an already caustic situation that was clearly out of line,” while faculty simply called it “at most a regrettable mistake.”
So should she be fired? You could argue she’s been punished enough by the worldwide web, where she’s been mocked by memes and cartoons that will exist long after she doesn’t. (see below)
But here are three crucial questions. If the answers are all NO, then YES, Click needs to work somewhere else. Like China or Cuba.
1. Is she sorry for what she did?
Or is she just sorry for what’s happened to her since?
A day after she became Internet Enemy No. 1 for trying to muscle out student reporter Mark Schierbecker, Click issued a public apology. But when Schierbecker dropped by her office for a personal apology, he told The Washington Post it didn’t go that well.
“She made no acknowledgement that what she did was assault,” he said. “She told me she had talked to another faculty member who is versed in constitutional law, and she said this professor had told her that it was kind of iffy as to whether faculty was allowed to enforce a perimeter like that.”
If Click still thinks that’s iffy, she should be fired in a jiffy. Otherwise, all she’s learned is: The next time I violate someone’s rights, I need to break their camera first.
2. Did everyone else get the message?
If those 115 faculty members feel Click’s antics were “at most a regrettable mistake,” what’s the least they think it was?
And what about the other 1,290 faculty members who didn’t sign the letter? How many would choose a stronger word than “regrettable”? Like maybe “embarrassing”? Or “alarming”? Or “illegal”?
As these professors know from their own classes, you don’t enforce discipline just to punish one offender. You also do it to send a message to everyone else. Example: If one student flouts your attendance policy and gets away with it, guess how many show up to the next class?
If that’s vital for attendance, surely it’s the same for the First Amendment.
If Click’s punishment is essentially time served, that only make sense if she and her peers have literally learned their (civics) lesson.
3. Will she talk to student media?
Besides doctors who smoke, I can’t think of a professional irony sadder than a communications professor who won’t comment.
As best I can tell, Click hasn’t granted a single interview to any news outlet. The least she can do is sit down with the student newspaper and TV station and talk about what happened.
If Click is truly sorry, and she’s truly an educator, she’ll make this a “teachable moment” for everyone – herself included.
So what does Mark Schierbecker think?
Schierbecker and I exchanged emails, and he sounded more mature than those letter-writing lawmakers and professors. When I asked him if Click should be fired, he replied calmly and deliberatively…
I think she should immediately be suspended pending an investigation. Asking for her to be immediately fired goes too far in my opinion. Usually, there is due process and then a proportional response. I don’t know what the outcome of the investigation should be.
As for the rest of the campus, Schierbecker says, “Many professors seemed to really get it. They were truly horrified by Click’s actions.”
Finally, he reminded me that this isn’t just about him. Other journalists were actually attacked at the protest. But since his video went viral, he became the name.
“Reporters had their gear smashed and women reporters were picked up by the protesters,” Schierbecker says. “One man threw a backpack at a reporter’s face. He didn’t see that as a response that was overkill.”
Lot of that going around these days.
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