You remember Melissa Click, right? She’s the former professor at the University of Missouri who became famous when she called for “muscle” to prevent students from filming a tent encampment black students had created on campus. Sunday the Chronicle of Higher Education profiled Click in a way that humanizes her a bit but also suggests she hasn’t learned much from the episode. In fact, she apparently still doesn’t think she did anything wrong:
While the video of her screaming at a student went viral, turning her into the Melissa Click, the confrontation on a quad during a protest here last year really wasn’t that remarkable, in her mind. The assistant professor of communication at the University of Missouri was just doing what other professors and administrators were doing there, too, she says. So why did she lose her job?
She has one idea. Under pressure from state legislators, she says, Missouri’s Board of Curators fired her to send a message that the university and the state wouldn’t tolerate black people standing up to white people. “This is all about racial politics,” she says. “I’m a white lady. I’m an easy target.”
It’s a little unclear where the author of the piece is getting this claim about black people standing up to white people since there is no direct quote for that. But assuming the story is accurate, Click’s reasoning seems pretty spotty. The President of the University quit over demands by the protesters. How exactly does firing one communications professor send a message that trumps that? Did anyone think ‘Well, this student action looked like a success when President Wolfe resigned but then they got Melissa!’ I don’t think so.
I don’t have much (okay, I don’t have any) sympathy for Click’s behavior last year. She ought to know better than to try to intimidate someone filming a newsworthy event on public property. The fact that that person was a student means the University was right to get involved and to reconsider her employment. But apparently Click still believes she was right to try and create a safe space for the students:
At a homecoming parade in October, she spontaneously linked arms with black students blocking the president’s car. That had a profound effect on her.
“Am I going to be one of those people who stands and watches another brutal moment against black people, or am I going to step in and make sure they’re safe?” she remembers asking herself. “I found out that day.” She stepped between the students and a policeman, thinking he’d be less likely to push her. But he did, she says, and she was indignant: “Get your [expletive] hands off me!”
You can see the video of Click at the homecoming parade for yourself. There was no “brutal moment” against black people, just a couple of cops repeatedly yelling, “Get out of the road!” and eventually warning people, including Click, they would be arrested if they didn’t step onto the sidewalk. In fact, she is one of the last people to do what the police were telling her do. Other protesters finally pull her out of the street.
Click’s conspiracy theory explanation of her firing doesn’t make much sense. What makes more sense is that her behavior became an embarrassment to the University. It’s not that she went to the protests or even that she participated in them. As she points out, other professors and administrators were doing that too. No, the problem is that she went too far. As the chairwoman of the board said when Click was fired, “Dr. Click was not entitled to interfere with the rights of others, to confront members of law enforcement or to encourage potential physical intimidation against a student.” Apparently, Professor Click still can’t see how any of that is a problem.