Mizzou prof. continues to fight for her job with impassioned WashPo. op-ed
Former University of Missouri (Mizzou) professor Melissa Click followed through on her promise to fight for her job by penning an impassioned op-ed in The Washington Post.
She begins the story with a personal anecdote, saying she was bogged down with the usual anxieties of daily life and was focused solely on “getting out the door with a young family” to grab a spot at Mizzou’s homecoming parade—the parade that would later earn her a place in the national media spotlight.
“I don’t want to live in a world where citizens are too afraid of public scorn to take a chance...”
“When I walked the block between us and the impasse and found myself suddenly in the presence of an unfolding political demonstration, I was immediately faced with a question of conscience,” Click writes, describing the morning she berated a police officer as one of great moral consequence. “A question I hadn’t anticipated when I hurriedly got ready that morning: Would I remain a spectator, or would I stand with these students enduring disparagement from the bystanders who wished the parade to continue unhindered?”
Click made a “quick decision,” she writes, “to stand with the students.” Little did she know her decision would be recorded in full by a police officer’s body camera.
The video footage shows the officer trying to settle the protest, moving Click and her students to the side of the road.
“Get your fucking hands off me!” Click shouts in the video, but fails to address in her op-ed.
Although this was Click’s first run-in with the law, it wasn’t the video that first drew the attention of reporters and journalists, who were the very people she claimed to be a mentor to.
During another protest on Mizzou’s campus, one shortly after the homecoming parade, Click was caught on camera calling for the forcible removal of a student journalist who was attempting to document the protests.
“Hey, can we get some muscle over here?” Click shouted shortly after taking a swing at the reporter’s camera.
The combined videos caused Click’s career to spiral out of control and created a public relations disaster for her school, which is currently fighting for students and state funding.
Click was eventually suspended from the university and later fired from her post in the school’s communications department after state lawmakers called for her removal.
Now, Click is doing all she can to get her job back and even garnered the support of the American Association of University Professors.
In her op-ed, Click defends herself by arguing that her actions were the morally excellent option—the option everyone else was too scared to choose.
“But I do not understand the widespread impulse to shame those whose best intentions, unfortunately result in imperfect action,” she writes. “What would our world be like if no one ever took a chance? What if everyone played it safe?”
Click continues to build up her argument, saying she had to act quickly in a challenging circumstance.
“Among the debates and judgments the video footage of my mistakes has attracted, few have sincerely grappled with the sudden choices I had to make in challenging circumstances, and fewer still have earnestly asked whether my protected right to speak out as a US citizen requires that I must be perfect while doing so,” she writes, seemingly arguing that the assault of a student journalist, which she was later charged with community service for, ought to be excused under her First Amendment rights.
She then attacks Mizzou’s Board of Curators for firing her “while under pressure from a state legislature holding MU’s annual budget hostage” and terminating her employment “without due process.” The Board, however, insists it has every right to terminate an employee who has conducted herself poorly.
Click concludes her article by arguing that her case will set an important precedent for future activists.
“We should all be concerned about the larger issues my situation raises,” she writes. “And what value do our rights as citizens have in a culture increasingly ruled by snap judgements and by regulations that are easily rewritten to suit changing political interests” she goes on to ask, saying the university’s snap decision to fire her was morally reprehensible, even though she defended herself by saying she needed to make a “quick decision.”
“I don’t want to live in a world where citizens are too afraid of public scorn to take a chance,” she concludes. “Do you?”
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AGockowski