Melissa Click, the assistant professor of communication at the University of Missouri at Columbia who was fired last month for her actions during on-campus protests in the fall, broke her silence Tuesday to endorse the American Association of University Professors’ planned investigation into her case. Click, who hasn’t spoken publicly since she was terminated in a closed-door vote by the university system’s Board of Curators, said in a statement that AAUP’s action “underscores my belief that the curators have overstepped their authority.” Click said that while she acted on the curators’ offer to appeal their decision directly to them, “I do not believe that the process they used to come to their decision was fair.” In reference to the unusual means by which the curators fired her -- absent faculty review -- Click said the curators must adhere to university policies and rescind her termination.
Click alleged the board had bowed to “conservative voices” calling for her dismissal and said that while she’s apologized for some of her actions during the protests -- including asking for “muscle” to remove a student journalist -- she won’t “apologize for my support of black students who experience racism” at Mizzou.
“Instead of disciplining me for conduct that does not ‘meet expectations for a university faculty member,’” she added, “the curators are punishing me for standing with students who have drawn attention to the issue of overt racism [on campus]. … The Board of Curators is using me as a scapegoat to distract from larger campus issues, but their termination of my employment will not remedy the environment of injustice that persists.”
After appealing to the university several times on behalf of Click, AAUP announced Tuesday that it would investigate her “summary dismissal,” which it said deviates from “normative practice among American institutions.” Namely, AAUP said, a professor “with indefinite tenure -- or a probationary faculty member within the term of appointment -- may be dismissed only following demonstration of cause in an adjudicative hearing before a faculty body.”
A three-person investigative team will visit the Mizzou campus later this month to meet with Click, faculty and board members, and other administrators. The investigation into alleged violations of academic freedom and tenure could result in censure by AAUP in June. A spokesperson for the university system said it had no immediate comment.
A group of high-profile Dominican sisters affiliated with Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, N.Y., is breaking with the institution’s Board of Trustees to back a faculty vote of no confidence in the board chair, Albert Gruner. The sisters’ move was promoted by the board’s unanimous vote over the weekend expressing confidence in Gruner. That’s despite faculty concerns that he’d confronted a faculty member over what the professor said about the college on social media, and his initial reaction to a now former trustee’s shared Twitter link to a video faculty members said was anti-Semitic, among other concerns about shared governance.
“The board was deeply saddened and profoundly disturbed by the resolution and its allegations,” the body said in a resolution regarding the vote of no confidence. “After a thorough discussion, the board determined that the allegations were false and unfounded.” The board also affirmed its commitment to shared governance.
In a response to that resolution, the Dominican sisters said the present “crisis at [the college] demanded bold action and we were in support of the resolution of the faculty for Gruner to step down from the board. He has become the focal point of the crisis and it could only have benefited the college and its mission of education if new leadership began as soon as possible. We are profoundly disturbed that this was not the will of the board.” Signatories to the statement were Sister Ann Sakac, president emerita, who led the college for 30 years; Sister Joann Boneski, board member emerita; and three professors emerita: Sisters Leona DeBoer, Pat Sullivan and Catherine Walsh.
Martha Minow, dean of the Harvard University law school, has endorsed the recommendations of a panel she appointed to change the law school's seal, a major demand of minority students and others. The seal (visible at right in a logo used by the student group) shows three bundles of wheat. Students say the seal is inappropriate because it was the family seal of Isaac Royall Jr., who was honored as a major early donor to the law school but was also involved with the slave trade in the 18th century.
In announcing her recommendation to end use of the seal, Minow wrote that the debate raised many issues. "Whatever was known in the past, powerful and challenging questions now arise about the Harvard Law School shield," she wrote. "Designed in 1936 as part of the university’s tercentenary, it contains a design based on a bookplate used by Isaac Royall Sr., who passed his wealth -- including enslaved persons -- to his son, the initial donor to the school. What role should history play in defining who we are? What was the genesis of the shield and how does that history influence our path forward? Do we better remember our connection with the Royall family and with slavery by preserving the shield or by retiring it? What role do symbols play in the school’s commitment to diversity, inclusion and belonging inside our community and in the world at large? Does consideration of the shield’s future put into question the names of buildings, endowed chairs, the nation’s capital and other embodiments of the past?"
Minow also gave her rationale for asking Harvard's governing board to vote to change the seal. "There are complex issues involved in preserving the histories of places and institutions with ties to past injustices, but several elements make retiring the shield less controverted than some other issues about names, symbols and the past," she wrote. "First, the shield is a symbol whose primary purpose is to identify and express who we mean to be. Second, it is not an anchoring part of our history: it was created in 1936 for a university celebration, used occasionally for decades and used more commonly only recently, and does not extend back to the origin of the school or even much beyond recent memory. Third, there is no donor whose intent would be undermined; the shield itself involves no resources entrusted in our care."
Stanford University on Friday announced that it will create a panel to draft guidelines for how to consider renaming buildings and other spaces that honor those with imperfect (and worse) histories. The university created the panel amid a push from many students to rename several structures named for Junipero Serra (right), an 18th-century Roman Catholic priest who created missions throughout California. While Serra is considered a hero by many and was declared a saint by Pope Francis last year, many Native Americans contend that Serra worked to destroy the cultures and beliefs of those who were in California before the missionaries.
Stanford officials said that they wanted to consider the requests related to Serra, but to do so under principles that might be applied to other situations as well. A statement from Provost John Etchemendy noted that Stanford's founders named many structures after people involved in early California history. "Not all of those names are names of people that have unblemished histories," Etchemendy said. "So we want to be able to apply the principles, not just to the Serra name but to other names to determine whether or not they should be changed."
Students who leave California's community colleges with just a few credits in career or technical education but no credential still see substantial wage gains or promotions at work, according to new data from the state.
University of Michigan's head coach scheduled a series of practices during a spring break trip to Florida, prompting outcry from those urging colleges to ease the time demands on athletes. Some say the controversy is overblown.
HCM Strategists, a public policy and advocacy firm, this week announced it will award $1 million in short-term grants aimed at helping nonprofit organizations and higher education systems develop advocacy strategies for changes in federal financial aid policy. The grant program, which is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will focus on FAFSA, loan repayment, institutional and student accountability, tax-benefit simplification, and state and federal partnerships. The group said it hopes to encourage new voices and partnerships on aid policy, including civil rights organizations, businesses and unions.