Melissa Click, an assistant professor of communication at the University of Missouri, has been charged with third-degree assault by the city of Columbia prosecutor’s office, an assistant at that office confirmed today to the Erik Wemple Blog. The arrest comes months after Click was captured on video asking for “some muscle” to counter a student journalist at a November protest at the university. She also pushed the student journalist’s camera.
“I’m media, can I talk to you?” asked Mark Schierbecker as Click helped patrol a student encampment on Nov. 9. “You need to get out … you need to get out.” When Schierbecker declined to move, Click shouted to other protesters: “Hey, who wants to help me get this reporter out of here? I need some muscle over here.” The protests were organized by Concerned Student 1950 to counter a spate of racist incidents on campus, and they forced the resignation of system President Timothy M. Wolfe.
There were other journalistic clashes on the Carnahan Quadrangle that day. Tim Tai, a student photographer on assignment for ESPN, struggled to get sight lines of the encampment after protesters confronted him. A religious studies professor assisted in blocking Tai.
Apologies flew around after things quieted down. “I have reached out to the journalists involved to offer my sincere apologies and to express regret over my actions,” Click said. “I regret the language and strategies I used, and sincerely apologize to the MU campus community, and journalists at large, for my behavior, and also for the way my actions have shifted attention away from the students’ campaign for justice. My actions were shaped by exasperation with a few spirited reporters.” The fallout also included Click’s resignation from her “courtesy appointment” at the university’s journalism school.
Click’s arrest, reported by ABC 17 News, comes amid debate in Missouri about her fitness to continue in her post. As reported by USA Today this month, more than 100 state Republican lawmakers have called for her to be fired. “The fact that, as a professor teaching in the communication department and school of journalism, she displayed such a complete disregard for the First Amendment rights of reporters should be enough to question her competency and aptitude for her job. It should be evident that these actions are inappropriate, illegal and unacceptable for a faculty member of the University of Missouri,” wrote the lawmakers.
Correct: The assault charge marks progress in this case, but the video below shows quite clearly that Click cannot possibly carry out her duties in any environment that purports to value free expression.