COLUMIBA, MO (KTVI) - University of Missouri leaders will be answering questions from state lawmakers Wednesday night during a public hearing in Jefferson City. They are likely to be grilled about the ongoing controversy at the Columbia campus involving a suspended faculty member.
Assistant Professor of Communication Melissa Click remains under investigation by the Board of Curators after members stepped in and suspended her with pay. A spokesman for the Board said Tuesday the investigation into her conduct will be concluded soon and she will have an opportunity to review it and to respond.
Both Click and MU Faculty Council Chairman Ben Trachtenberg said normally misconduct charges would be filed on campus and the faculty member would respond in a formal hearing. Trachtenberg said Curators had gone beyond faculty by-laws which establish the procedure when they took the action to suspend Click with pay and ordered their own investigation.
During a one on one interview with Fox Two’s Betsey Bruce, Click said she intervened during the MU Homecoming Parade to protect African American students who were protesting and had surrounded the parade car carrying the U of M system wide president Tim Wolfe.
“We live two hours from Ferguson. It’s been a pretty rocky year in the United States and to see a police officer shaking a can of pepper spray at students who were acting non-violently I thought I will, I will protect them,” Click explained.
Body cam video from two Columbia Police officers became public over the weekend after the Columbia Missourian newspaper sought the material under a Freedom of Information Act request. The video shows Click stepping between students and police as officers asked the students to leave the street and return to the sidewalk. They did move back. She can be heard yelling at officers and at one point cursed one of them.
Tuesday she said, “That’s a moment that I’m sorry for. I think I was surprised that an officer put his hands on me and pushed me. Like I said, I’ve never done anything like that before.”
Missouri University campus interim Chancellor Hank Foley called the action “appalling” and said the video showed a “pattern of misconduct.”
Click disputed that and called his comments a “dangerous precedent.”
She added, “I think it sends a message to faculty that they should think twice before they stand up for students who are threatened and I also think he created an environment where I’m not going to be able to get a fair evaluation for my behavior.”
Click drew national attention in November when a video went viral showing her trying to remove a student journalist from the scene of a student protest on racism at MU and calling for “muscle” to accomplish that.
On Tuesday she said she had never met the protesting students until the Homecoming parade in October. She then visited their encampment on the Carnahan Quadrangle after the MU football team offered support for a protesting student on a hunger strike. She said both times she feared for the students’ safety.
The professor denied having anything to do with how the students planned their protests. “We don’t talk about strategy. They send me text messages to see if I’m okay, but that’s about the extent of the interaction and what they are going to do next is not knowledge that I’m privy to,” she explained.
Click said she did not realize the person she tried to remove from the quadrangle was a student and that he had only identified himself as “media.”
She apologized for her mistakes but said she believes she has become an “easy target” during a long standing” animosity between the legislature and the university”.
As for her future, she is asking for a full review of her 12 year career at Mizzou. “I made mistakes supporting these students, but my intention was to, like other faculty and staff, to support a student group that was expressing that they had been excluded from MU, the MU community.”
Click also said she is perplexed over the lack of attention to the students’ message concerning racism. She believes legislators, curators and the chancellor should be more interested in “listening to the students who said they feel excluded from our campus community.”
Interim Chancellor Hank Foley was not available for comment Tuesday.