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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.