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.
Sara Goldrick-Rab announced online Monday night that she is leaving the University of Wisconsin at Madison for Temple University. Goldrick-Rab is a prominent researcher on low-income students and public policy and she has been among the more outspoken critics of the removal of tenure protections from statute in Wisconsin. While the University of Wisconsin System has been moving to put tenure policies into system policy, Goldrick-Rab has argued that those policies are not true tenure.
"It is no longer possible for critical scholars working in public higher education to flourish without tenure protections," she wrote online. "There are daily attacks on the ideas of scholars who challenge current practices and policies employed by university administrators, state legislators and even governors. McCarthyism is alive and well -- especially here in Wisconsin."
She added: "Terrified sheep make lousy teachers, lousy scholars and lousy colleagues. And today at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, thanks to #FakeTenure, I’m surrounded by terrified sheep. To be honest, commitments to the growing number of people whom I am responsible for (including my two children, but also my students and staff), put me at risk of becoming one of them."
Goldrick-Rab also wrote that, at Temple, she will have real tenure protections and a faculty union. In addition, she said she is pleased to be going to a university with a strong commitment to serving diverse, low-income students.
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.
Roxane Gay (right) says she rewrote the talk she gave at Saint Louis University last week to focus on abortion rights -- as a protest against a last-minute "reminder" that she shouldn't talk about abortion. Gay, a feminist writer and an associate professor of English at Purdue University, says that her speaking agent received a notice the morning of her talk, saying that the university, as a Jesuit institution, didn't want her speaking about the "pro-choice agenda." Her response was to rewrite her speech to focus on a pro-choice agenda, and to talk about the importance with which she views abortion rights.
She says she thought about calling off the talk, but instead gave the new version to take a stand against censorship. "My temper flared immediately. I don’t like vague threats of censorship. I hate the word 'agenda' when it is used as a blunt instrument, when it is used to imply that one with a so-called agenda is up to no good. I am a deeply flawed person, but I pride myself on being concerned with the greater good, and seeking out goodness in myself and others. I thought about canceling my appearance, but then I reconsidered because really, what would that accomplish?" she wrote.
Adjunct faulty members at St. Charles Community College, in Missouri, voted Thursday to unionize and to be represented by Service Employees International Union, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The vote was 108-61.
Larycia Hawkins, who left the faculty of Wheaton College of Illinois over a controversy on her statements on God, has accepted a fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture of the University of Virginia. At Virginia, she will study the relationship between races and religions. Hawkins and Wheaton reached a deal for her to leave after the college started a process to fire her. Hawkins wore a hijab during Advent as a sign of solidarity with Muslims, and her explanation of her action -- that she believed Christians and Muslims worship a common God -- was inconsistent with Wheaton's beliefs, officials said. (Many faculty members disagreed that her statements were problematic.)