We have previously discussed the controversy surrounding University of Missouri Assistant Professor of Communication Melissa Click who was caught on videotape obstructing a student journalist and calling for “muscle” to prevent him from covering a protest. She was charged with assault in that case. Eventually she was sacked by Missouri in what should have been one of the easiest decisions ever made by an educational institution. Now however Gonzaga University has given Click another faculty position, a move that is likely to result in considerable controversy. The effort to “muscle” a student journalist and keep him from reporting on a protest is viewed by many academics as unpardonable, particularly in a market filled with people trying to secure jobs in higher education.
The appointment of Click is likely to infuriate many faculty, particularly in journalism schools. It was not just Click’s conduct generally at the protest but her encouraging students to move against a student journalist. Click confronted videographer Mark Schierbecker during a campus protest on Nov. 9 and appeared to block him from covering the event. When Schierbecker asks to speak with Professor Click, she tells him “No, you need to get out” and appears to grab Schierbecker’s camera. “You need to get out. You need to get out.” When the student journalist refused to leave, Click yells to a group of nearby demonstrators: “Who wants to help me get this reporter out of here? I need some muscle over here.”
A later videotape has emerged showing Click yelling profanities at police officers who were trying to clear protestors blocking traffic on campus. Many academics viewed her effort to silence a journalist and her conduct at protests to be anathema for any academic.
Nevertheless, Elisabeth Mermann-Jozwiak, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Gonzaga, said that they still viewed Click as a good hire despite her history. She was given a one-year, non-tenure track position as a lecturer in the university’s communication studies department.
The school insists that “We are confident she has learned much from her experiences at the University of Missouri and believe she will uphold the rigorous standards of academic excellence demanded of Gonzaga faculty and students.”
From the perspective of Gonzaga, the poor decisions of Click cannot doom her to a lifetime outside of the academy. For others, her actions are mortal not venal sins for an academic.
What do you think?