A communications professor at the University of Missouri is facing harsh criticism on social media after she was recorded blocking student journalists who were trying to cover the protests occurring on the school’s campus.
The professor, Melissa Click, is seen in the video telling a student photographer, Mark Schierbecker, he “needs to get out” of the area where protesters had camped. The area is part of the campus quad, which is a public space.
Click, 44, apologized in a statement on Tuesday. Read it below:
Click was charged on January 25, 2016, with third-degree assault, a misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of 15 days in jail and a $300 fine.
She is still a professor at the university.
Here’s what you need to know about Click:
1. Click Called for ‘Muscle’ to Remove the Student Journalist
Professor Melissa Click can be heard and briefly seen at the beginning of the video, screaming, “you need to back up if you are with the media,” while student journalist Tim Tai is confronted by a group of protesters while he is taking photos.
“You need to back up, respect the students,” Click says. “BACK UP! They have asked you to respect their space, move back. This is their time. You need to step out of here now. You need to go.”
Click appears in the video again at the end, at about the 6:18 mark when she tells the student photographer filming the incident, Mark Schierbecker, who was asking a student if she wanted to be interviewed, that he has to “get out.”
Schierbecker says “no I don’t” have to leave the area, and Click responds by grabbing his camera and again telling him to “get out.”
After he again refuses, she steps away and yells out, “Hey who wants to help me get this reporter out of here. I need some muscle over here!”
The video then ends. Schierbecker posted a longer version of the video on Tuesday, showing more of his interaction with Click:
After Click calls for muscle, Schierbecker begins speaking to a student. Click then comes over and yells at him, “you need to get out.”
He responds, “this is public property,” and Click puts her hand over his camera and mockingly says, “that’s a really good one, I’m a communications faculty and I really get that argument, but you need to go. You need to go, you need to go.”
She then tells a group of students to move so he can get out, and says “don’t let him back in.”
Click then walks around the inside of the circle, telling the students to not let reporters in. She spots Schierbecker and points at him and says, “oh he’s a good one,” as he films from outside the circle.
Schierbecker said on Twitter:
David Kurpius, the dean of Missouri’s prestigious School of Journalism said on Twitter that Click is not a “J-School faculty member,” and the department is removing her courtesy title:
Click has been criticized for her actions by several people on Twitter:
An editor at the local newspaper also joined in the criticism:
2. She Is Researching ’50 Shades of Grey’ Readers & the ‘Impact of Social Media in Fans’ Relationship With Lady Gaga’Click is an assistant professor of mass media in Missouri’s Department of Communication.
According to the university’s website, “Her research interests center on popular culture texts and audiences, particularly texts and audiences disdained in mainstream culture. Her work in this area is guided by audience studies, theories of gender and sexuality, and media literacy. Current research projects involve 50 Shades of Grey readers, 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.”
The journalism and communication departments are separate at Missouri, but Click is the chair of a committee that oversees student publications at the university.
“The charge to the Student Publications Committee is to recommend to the vice chancellor for Student Affairs policies and regulations regarding the publication of the Maneater and Savitar,” the university’s website says.
Click graduated in 1993 with degrees in retail marketing and women’s studies from James Madison University. She then earned her master’s in communication and Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
Click, who has been an assistant professor at Mizzou since 2008, is paid $57,798 a year.
In 2010, she wrote about the role of media during a crisis for the Antenna, a University of Wisconsin publication:
I really hate US television news. I detest its lack of historical context and investigative journalism, and its drive for ratings through fantastical and voyeuristic stories. There are moments, however, when I turn to television news to provide the visual, immediate, and ongoing coverage of stories not easily gained through newspapers, radio programs, or the Web: moments like 9/11, the Indian Ocean tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, the Kashmir earthquake and now the earthquake in Haiti. Many American television journalists, like Brian Williams, Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer, and Anderson Cooper, arrived in Haiti before much of the “relief effort” arrived. Like many of you, I have watched the coverage with my jaw dropped, overwhelmed and distraught by what these journalists have shown me.
Once the initial shock wore off, I wanted more information about Haiti, and the television news hater in me returned. Much of the television coverage has lacked historical information about Haiti and its relationship to the United States, focusing instead on images of flattened buildings, suffering people and stories of survivors searching for loved ones. I was truly appalled when I watched Anderson Cooper place a microphone deep into a demolished building to allow viewers to hear the screams of the 15-year-old girl trapped in the rubble.
Click’s work focuses often on women in the media and feminism. In May, she told Unearthed, a blog run by the Missouri School of Journalism, she became involved in feminism while she was a student at James Madison.
“I do think we have a bias against things that women like,” she told Unearthed. “Fifty Shades or Twilight are considered to be stupid, mindless and dangerous messages for women, but nobody questions what messages Batman or Iron Man are doing to young boys and men in the same way that Fifty Shades is to women. The presumption is that women’s messages are harmful, while men’s messages are entertainment and mindless fun.”
She has won several awards at Missouri, including Outstanding Mentor in 2011 from the Association of Communication Graduate Students and Graduate Advisor of the Year in 2013.
“The nice thing about Melissa is that no matter what kind of problem you take to her – a question or a concern or even just, you know a good piece of news – she will respond to you,” doctoral candidate Cristin Compton told Unearthed. “She’s made my experience at Mizzou so much better than it could have been.”
3. She Asked for Media Coverage of the Protests on Her Facebook Page
On November 7, two days before the confrontation on the quad with the student journalists, Click put out a call for media coverage of the protests at Missouri.
“Hey folks, students fighting racism on the MU campus want to get their message into the national media,” Click wrote on her Facebook page. “Who among my friends knows someone who would want a scoop into this incredible topic? This story involves the failure of administrators, a student on day 6 of a hunger strike, and creative, fearless students. If you can help, please let me know!”
Click and Janna Basler, an assistant director in the university’s Student Life Office who was also seen in the video blocking journalists, have received death threats, according to the Columbia Missourian.
The protests were led by a group called Concerned Student 1950 (a reference to the year the university first admitted black students), who were outraged over the way the university’s administration handled a series of racist events on campus, including slurs directed toward the student body president and a swastika made out of feces that was found in a dorm. The protests, along with a boycott by the school’s football team and a hunger strike by a graduate student, led to the resignation of the university’s president, Tim Wolfe.
Mitchell McKinney, the chair of the Department of Communication said in a statement that they “support 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,” McKinney continued. “Intimidation is never an acceptable form of communication. We reiterate our commitment as communication scholars to the transformative power of dialogue; we believe words shape our realities and that engaging multiple perspectives is vital.”
McKinney said the department cannot comment about personnel matters.
4. The School’s Assistant Director of Greek Life Was Also Seen in the Video Blocking Journalists
In the video filmed by Schierbecker, the university’s Assistant Director of Greek Life is seen confronting and blocking another student journalist, Tim Tai, who was talking to students who wanted him to leave the area.
Janna Basler, who has also not commented on the video, is seen telling Tai, “You need to back off.” She also appears to shove Tai, and puts her hand in front of his face.
When Tai asks her name, she says, “I am Concerned Student 1950.”
Tai tells the other students and Basler he has a “job to do.”
She responds, “They have a life to live, they have an education to get and a life to live.”
Tai tweeted about the reaction to the video:
Basler earns $67,812 a year as the assistant director of Greek Life & Leadership in the Student Life office.
The university has not responded to requests for comment about the actions of the professor and administrator.
Read more about Basler at the link below:
5. The Organizers of Concerned Student 1950 Have Asked the Media to Stay Out of Their ‘Safe Space’
The hunger strike and football players’ boycott drew the national media, along with local media and student journalists, to Columbia to cover the on-campus protests. After Tim Wolfe stepped down, some of the media attempting to cover the Concerned Student 1950 protests and the student protesters clashed on the university’s quad.
The students put out signs saying “no media,” and chanted “reporters have to go,” at the journalists while linking arms to form a shield.
Concerned Student 1950 said on Twitter the camp site where they were protesting is there “safe space” and asked the media not to interfere.
Members of the media said on Twitter that the campus quad is a public space, and they were trying to do their jobs and cover the story.
On Tuesday, the protest’s organizers took down the “no media” signs and welcome the press in.
The Missouri School of Journalism wrote about the issues that came out of Monday’s protests:
The space in question, Carnahan Quad, was a public space in which protestors should have been able to hold their event, and journalists should have been able to cover it freely. Ideally, the space would have had neutral parties to maintain order between the groups, and no such official referees existed to do that.
The Carnahan Quad incident was different than scenes often portrayed by the media involving protesters and counter-protesters. The media were there as neutral agents trying to cover an event. They were there to gather information and did not have a position to support.
At question is the role of two university officials at the event. It makes a difference if they were there as university officials or if they were there as participants. Some would argue that an on-campus event involving Missouri students would require the two employees to step in and act as neutral parties.
Read more about the “key questions” raised by the incident here.
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