The University of Missouri Board of Curators has fired embattled instructor Melissa Click.
The board made its decision in a 4-2 vote Wednesday night in Kansas City. Board member John R. Phillips and board chairwoman Pamela Henrickson voted no.
On Thursday — when the vote was disclosed — Henrickson said a university investigation showed Click’s actions were not compatible with university policies.
Click was famously caught on camera in November calling for “muscle” while blocking student journalists from covering a campus demonstration.
A second video surfaced this month showing Click cursing at a police officer during the University of Missouri-Columbia’s homecoming parade in October.
Both incidents came last fall during a turbulent time on Mizzou’s campus, where students were protesting a series of racist incidents on campus.
Students were especially angered over what they perceived as indifference by the university’s top leadership.
Click’s actions were widely interpreted by some as an example of political correctness and liberalism gone too far.
As such, Click’s continued presence on Mizzou’s payroll proved particularly upsetting for some in the Missouri Legislature who pounded university leaders to get rid of the assistant professor of communications.
In January, more than 100 Republican lawmakers sent a letter to Mizzou calling on administrators to fire her.
Later, lawmakers hinted that Mizzou’s state funding could be cut should Click remain employed by the university.
As recently as last week, members of the Legislature’s Joint Education Committee spent the better part of two hours grilling university leaders on Click and what it would take to have her fired.
On Thursday, Henrickson, the board chairwoman, said pressure from the Legislature did not factor into the curators’ decision.
Instead, Henrickson said Click’s termination is solely the result of the university investigation that found Click’s behavior worthy of being fired.
“The board respects Dr. Click’s right to express her views and does not base this decision on her support for students engaged in protest or their views,” Henrickson said. “However, 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.”
Interim Chancellor Hank Foley has called Click’s behavior “appalling” and said that he was angry and disappointed at her “pattern of misconduct.” During a conference call on Thursday, Foley said he agrees with the board’s decision to fire Click.
“It was in the best interest of the university,” he said.
Mizzou leaders recently announced that between seven and 10 donors have rescinded about $2 million in pledges to the university, in part, because of Click’s continued employment.
While Click’s firing could prove to be a boon to the university’s fundraising, university leaders said they did not know how the Legislature would respond to Thursday’s announcement.
“The Legislature will do what they will do,” Henrickson said.
House Minority Leader Jake Hummel on Thursday released a statement saying the Legislature’s involvement in Click’s employment status was inappropriate.
“Now that the board has acted, House Democrats are hopeful the misguided attempts to punish the university and its students will lose traction, and the legislative focus can shift to helping Mizzou reestablish its reputation as one of our nation’s finest public universities.”
State Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, the Senate’s budget leader, has been a frequent critic of the university’s handling of Click. He called her firing “a step in the right direction.”
Schaefer said his gripe isn’t specifically with Click, but rather with the university’s leadership after the Click videos surfaced.
“What I’ve been pushing for is some show of responsibility from the university’s leadership,” Schaefer said. “The video clearly shows a member of the faculty committing assault on a student. That’s prompted calls from parents asking, what’s going on over there? Who’s in charge?”
Schaefer also pushed back on the idea that the Legislature has used the threat of withholding money in order to influence university decisions.
Over the past six years, legislators have continually voted for steady funding increases to the university, Schaefer said.
“There’s a difference between a supporter and an enabler,” he said. “Legislators have shown support, but we’re not going to be supportive of an administration that gets close to half a billion from the state every year and does not appear to be in control.”
Click first received a copy of the investigation’s findings, including documents, videos and witness statements on Feb. 12. She submitted a written response a week later.
In it, she argued the report failed to offer the complete context of events captured on the video clips.
“While some would judge me by a short portion of videotape, I do not think that this is a fair way to evaluate these events,” she wrote. “Those videotaped moments (for which I have formally and publicly apologized) deserve to be understood in a wider frame of reference, among all of the momentous events of the fall semester.”
Wednesday’s action was the culmination of an unusual process for the board. Typically it only instigates such action against faculty after a formal complaint has been filed from a party within the university.
That did not happen in this case — a deviation from protocol that was criticized by members of the Faculty Council, which especially objected to the university hiring a law firm to interview witnesses and prepare a report.
“Whatever you think of Melissa Click, she’s entitled to a process that’s fair,” said Faculty Council Chairman Ben Trachtenberg. “Any member of the board could have initiated a complaint against her at any time.”
Click has the right to appeal the board’s decision.
Editor's note: Sen. Kurt Schaefer's title was incorrect in an earlier version of this story.