U of Missouri Board Responds to AAUP on Click Case

March 18, 2016

The University of Missouri Board of Curators on Thursday responded to the American Association of University Professors’ planned investigation of the Melissa Click case. Pamela Q. Henrickson, board chair, said in a 10-page letter to AAUP that the termination of Click, the former assistant professor of communication at the Columbia campus who asked for muscle to remove a student journalist and yelled at police during on-campus protests this fall, is fundamentally consistent with AAUP values. That’s despite AAUP’s contention that Click was terminated without an opportunity to appeal to a faculty body, a widely followed standard endorsed by the association.

Henrickson said that AAUP’s statements on such matters don’t establish an absolute right or requirement to such a hearing, and instead focus on matters of academic freedom and tenure. She denied that Click’s case concerns academic freedom or tenure, which she noted the professor did not have. Henrickson also wrote that while the board endorses faculty hearings in midterm dismissal cases, Click’s case was not typical in that existing university procedures failed to address the seriousness of her actions (no one filed a complaint against Click).

“[The board] addressed conduct by Dr. Click that was contrary to those basic expectations and at odds with principles of free expression that animate [AAUP policy],” the letter says. “Indeed, by calling for physical intimidation or violence against a student, Dr. Click engaged in conduct that, if tolerated, would pose a risk to the safety of students and faculty and fundamentally endanger the university’s academic environment.”

Henrickson said the board’s actions do not merit censure by AAUP, in which the investigation could result, but that the body is nonetheless reviewing existing Missouri polices to ensure that it will not have to act on its own in instances of future faculty misconduct. Hans-Joerg Tiede, associate secretary of AAUP’s department of academic freedom, tenure and governance, said the association’s investigation will continue as planned, with the investigating committee possibly responding to the board’s concerns in its report.

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