Missouri governor says Mizzou professor's future not his responsibility

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon said it is not in his authority to determine the future of University of Missouri (Mizzou) professor Melissa Click, who was accused of assaulting a student journalist at an on-campus protest last year.

“I’m not going to micro manage the university. I don’t call Chancellor Foley or the President up and tell them who to hire and fire,” Nixon said. “The Legislature certainly has opinions and quite frankly, I thought the conduct was unacceptable but that’s me talking.”

Earlier this year, more than 100 Missouri Republican lawmakers signed a letter addressed to the Mizzou Board of Curator calling for the immediate firing of Click. State lawmakers argued that Click’s actions contradicted her role in the communications department, which is to teach and defend the First Amendment rights of aspiring journalists.

“We call on you to remove Click from her current position as assistant professor of mass media in the University’s Department of Communications and to deny her pending application for tenure,” lawmakers wrote to the Board of Curators at Mizzou just days before Christmas break.

[RELATED: Lawmakers call for firing of Mizzou prof. involved in student protests]

Click received national criticism after she was filmed yelling at student reporters during a protest in November. The video shows Click swinging at the reporter’s camera, leading some state lawmakers to believe she “assaulted a student,” as their letter to the Board of Curators states.

Nixon, however, disagreed with calls to remove Click from her post at Mizzou and said the reputation of the university is too important to get hung up on personnel issues.

[RELATED: Only five percent of Mizzou faculty support prof. involved in protests]

“Whether the conduct was unacceptable or not, we certainly have First Amendment rights to talk about it,” Nixon said. “But, this institution is far too important to the future of our state and far too vital to the economic mission for people to talk about fiscal punishment for personnel issues.”

Mizzou Curator David Steelman, on the other hand, thinks Click clearly assaulted the student journalist and should consequently be fired.

“This really isn’t a debatable issue. It really is not,” Steelman said. “I love our university but frankly, I think it’s a little ridiculous that it’s taken this long. I am a lawyer. There’s no question that the threat of physical force, which is what she did, is an assault.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AGockowski