COLUMBIA, Mo. ― An investigation by a national professors group has found that the University of Missouri Board of Curator likely bowed to political pressure when it fired an assistant professor over her role last year in a race-related student protest.
The American Association of University Professors said a three-member investigating committee of professors from other institutions reviewed the board’s decision to terminate Melissa Click. The investigators, whose findings were released just after 11 p.m. Wednesday, determined that normal processes for disciplining faculty weren’t used, the Columbia Daily Tribune reported.
Click’s firing in February followed run-ins with police during October protests in Columbia and with two student journalists weeks later on the Columbia campus, including a videotaped confrontation in which she called for “some muscle” to remove a student videographer from the protest area. Click has apologized for her actions, while also insisting that her ouster was unfair.
The association’s report said: “Many observers see the board’s action as motivated less by concern with Professor Click’s alleged misconduct and more by an effort to appease legislators threatening to punish the institution financially if she were not dismissed.”
The university, which was given a chance to comment on the report before it was published, defended Click’s termination. Curators Chair Pam Henrickson, one of two votes against firing Click, issued a statement Wednesday that also described the board’s actions as justified.
Henrickson said in the statement that the report “disregards the seriousness of her misconduct and reaches inconsistent and unsupported conclusions.”
The report will be considered in early June by the association’s Committee A on Academic Freedom, which will recommend whether the University of Missouri should be on put on the group’s censure list.