Of all the madness that has been taking place at the University of Missouri-Columbia campus the last week or so, here’s what puzzled me most:
What the hell was an assistant professor of communications doing trying to block a couple of journalists from getting access to a group of student protesters?
Although you haven’t seen them in The Star, widely disseminated photographs show Melissa Click, the professor, trying to stop a student photographer, Tim Tai, from photographing the protesters on Monday.
First of all, why would Click involve herself in a student protest? It appeared as if the students were doing OK for themselves, having brought down the president of the university system and the Columbia chancellor.
But there she was Monday (below), wearing an angry frown and calling for “muscle” to help remove another young man who was recording the confrontation between herself and Tai.
This from a communications professor with a Ph.D., who apparently didn’t understand the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of speech and assembly on public ground.
Here’s part of the exchange between Click and cameraman Mark Schierbecker:
Schierbecker: I’m media. Can I talk to you?
Click: No, you need to get out! You need to get out!
Schierbecker: No I don’t.
Click: You need to get out.
Schierbecker: I actually don’t.
Tai, who is only 20, and Schierbecker handled themselves respectfully and professionally, asserting their right to stand their ground and resisting any urge to angrily engage Click. Even at my age and with my background, I’m not sure I could have been that restrained.
Tai said later:”I wish she had handled the situation differently, but as a journalist it really just became part of the scene I was presented with and I never took her or anyone else’s actions personally.”
…Click’s background and areas of professional focus are, shall we say, a bit out of the mainstream. Perhaps that helps explain how she wandered off the beaten path Monday.
Her bio, on the university’s website, cites her research interests as “popular culture texts and audiences” and says her work “is guided by audience studies, theories of gender and sexuality, and media literacy.”
The website goes on to say that her current research projects include “the impact of social media in fans’ relationship with Lady Gaga, masculinity and male fans, messages about class and food in reality television programming, and messages about work in children’s television programs.”
Her doctoral dissertation was about the “commodification of femininity, affluence and whiteness in the Martha Stewart phenomenon.”
Her bio prompted Maureen Sullivan, a contributing writer at Forbes, to write an article titled “Why do Parents Hate Paying College Tuition? Meet Missouri Professor Melissa Click,” in which Sullivan said Click “crystallizes the view that tuition dollars are spent on nonsense, and sometimes worse.”
Click has been affiliated with MU since 2003, and she became an assistant professor in 2008.
MU officials have given no indication of how Click’s antics might affect her employment status, but her department issued a statement rebuking her actions.
The University of Missouri Department of Communication supports the First Amendment as a fundamental right and guiding principle underlying all that we do as an academic community. We applaud student journalists who were working in a very trying atmosphere to report a significant story. Intimidation is never an acceptable form of communication.
…I do not know if Click has tenure, and, in any event, I would be surprised if she was fired. But I would think her chances of becoming a full professor have been greatly reduced.
All in all, she would have been a lot better off spending Monday doing more research on Lady Gaga instead of trying to emulate a Kansas City Chiefs lineman.