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Missouri Lawmakers Demand Firing of Professor Who Harassed Student Photographer



The University of Missouri has one of the oldest and most prestigious journalism schools in the country, but in November 2015, the school had its reputation tarnished by a viral video that showed student photographer Tim Tai and cameraman Mark Schierbecker getting blocked and harassed by student activists and university staff.

Over 100 of Missouri’s lawmakers are now demanding that the assistant media professor, Melissa Click, be fired for her actions during the protests.

Click was caught on camera ordering cameraman Mark Schierbecker away from a public area and calling for “muscle” when he wouldn’t leave. Here’s the original video showing Click’s treatment of Schierbecker:

Shortly after the video went viral, sparking outcry, Click published an apology and resigned from her courtesy appointment in the journalism school. But that’s not enough for many of Missouri’s top lawmakers.

A letter demanding her firing was submitted yesterday to the university, and it included the signatures of over 100 Republican representatives and 18 senators.

“The fact that, as a professor teaching in the communication department and the school of journalism, [Click] displayed such a complete disregard for the First Amendment rights of reporters should be enough to question her competency and aptitude for her job,” the lawmakers write. “As a professor in the School of Journalism, Click’s role should have been to remind students that we must respect the First Amendment rights of all individuals, and that the student reporters there were doing nothing more than their jobs; jobs which are soundly protected by our Constitution.”

“It should be evident that [her] actions are inappropriate, illegal, and unacceptable for a faculty member of the University of Missouri […] We call on you to remove Click from her current position as an assistant professor of mass media […] The University now has the opportunity to send a strong message that leadership can and will act quickly and decisively to root out bad behavior.”

Here’s the full letter, in case you’d like to read it for yourself:

“In my opinion, it’s clear she violated this reporter’s constitutional rights,” Representative Caleb Jones tells the Missourian. “It’s also clear that she assaulted that reporter. The state’s land grant institution should not be employing people like that.”

Update on 1/6/2016: Over 100 MU faculty members have written, signed, and published a new letter in support of Melissa Click. Originally intended to be an internal letter, the letter has now been made public in response to the demand letter by the state legislators.

Image credits: Header still frame from video by Mark Schierbecker