Remember Melissa Click, the University of Missouri professor who lost her job after assaulting a student on camera and asking for some “muscle” to help get rid of him? According to Click, her dismissal from Mizzou wasn’t because she attacked a student in a pathetic bid to shut down free speech. Nope. Click says she was fired for being white.
In an interview with The Chronicle of Higher Education, Melissa Click speaks out about being fired from the University of Missouri after threatening a student reporter who was filming a campus protest she was participating in.
“This is all about racial politics,” she said. “I’m a white lady. I’m an easy target.”
Last November, Click became well-known as the media professor who told Mark Schierbecker, a student who was filming the protest, to “get out” of the campus quad where students and some professors were camping out. When he refused, she tried to grab the camera out of his hands and threatened him with “muscle.”
“Hey, who wants to help me get this reporter out of here,” she screamed to the assembled mob. “I need some muscle over here!”
But Click says that’s not at all what happened. According to Click, the headline about the incident should have been “Favorite Professor Fights to Support Black Students on Campus in Dangerous Situation.”
Her actions were fueled by an instinct to protect the black student protestors, Click said:
“Black people love me,” she tells a reporter.
Later, a black woman runs out of the Campus Bar and Grill headlong into an embrace with Ms. Click. It’s one of the protest organizers. Soon three black students surround the former professor. They sound protective. How is she? They’re concerned. They tell her they love her.
An image she returns to, on Facebook, is of black students who interrupted a Board of Curators meeting to protest her firing. One young woman is holding up a sign: “Ain’t Nobody Messin With My Click.”
Click maintains that none of her actions seemed were inconsistent with the way other faculty and staff members were treating the protesters at the time.
“I was in a space where even the chancellor was spending a lot of time,” she told The Chronicle. “There was no reason to think I was doing something that wasn’t sanctioned by the university.”
Here’s how The Chronicle described her supposedly sanctioned actions during the protests:
These are actions and remarks that, by now, she has apologized for countless times — both formally and informally. Some, however, point out that Mr. Schierbecker wasn’t the only one Ms. Click clashed with on the quad. She told a geology professor that questions he directed to the black students were inappropriate, he says, and asked him to leave. And she told two other cameramen they weren’t welcome, flinging mocking comments at one (“Wow, you’re so scary”) and leading the students in a chant to banish the other (“Hey, hey, ho, ho, reporters have got to go!”). Exactly why, many have asked, was the assistant professor there that day taking on such a lead role?
Her husband, who also participated in the Concerned Student 1950 protest at which Click berated and threatened a reporter, said she shouldn’t be punished, because she did the right thing.
“Academia is a place where you can follow your conscience,” her husband said. “Standing up for people who are trying to voice their concerns about their treatment shouldn’t be penalized.”
He did not explain why she apologized “countless times” for activities which Click asserts were allegedly “sanctioned by the university.”
In February, the University of Missouri fired Click. When she filed for unemployment benefits, she was denied. Now she spends her time anxiously looking over her shoulder at the imagined boogeymen stalking her while she shops for groceries:
But her nerves are perpetually on edge. In the dairy aisle of the grocery store, Ms. Click is vigilant. She takes a quick look around as she glances at the flier, then reaches for two packages of shredded cheese on sale.
She imagines someone watching. “Look,” she says in a high-pitched voice. “There’s Melissa Click, using coupons!” But no one is there.
At the end of the day, how does Click reconcile her actions with their consequences?
“I’m not a superhero,” Click said. “I wasn’t in charge.”