Mark Schierbecker’s first unofficial meeting with Melissa Click took place at a student protest in Columbia, Mo., on Monday. That’s when the 22-year-old University of Missouri student filmed a video that showed Click, a mass media professor, calling for “some muscle” to remove Schierbecker and fellow student journalist Tim Tai from the area.
As far as introductions go, it wasn’t a great one.
Schierbecker told The Washington Post that his second meeting with the embattled professor, which occurred Tuesday when he dropped by Click’s office seeking an apology, didn’t go much better.
Although Click apologized to him, according to Schierbecker, he said that she tried to defend some of her behavior during Monday’s heated interaction with the student journalists.
— Busted Coverage (@bustedcoverage) November 9, 2015
“She made no acknowledgement that what she did was assault,” Schierbecker said by telephone. “She told me she had talked to another faculty member who is versed in constitutional law and she said this professor had told her that it was kind of iffy as to whether faculty was allowed to enforce a perimeter like that.
“I totally disagree. There should be no disagreement about whether state employees are allowed to participate to the extent of assaulting journalists who are students. She’s defending her actions, tacitly.”
Click — who issued a public apology Tuesday and resigned her courtesy appointment with the Missouri School of Journalism — was not immediately available for comment. She remains a member of the Department of Communication, which is in MU’s College of Arts and Science.
In an e-mail sent to The Post, Tai, a student photographer who was also confronted by Click during the campus protest, confirmed that the professor had apologized to him by phone. Tai said that he had accepted her apology.
“I don’t have and never had ill feelings toward her or the others in the video, and never took their actions personally — as a journalist, they were simply part of the scene I was documenting and not the enemy, so to speak,” Tai said. “But being a journalist is often an intrusive role, and I understand that everyone was acting on adrenaline and high emotions, even if both sides had good intentions.”
Tai added that he hopes the professor’s apology will relieve some of the tensions stoked by the viral video.
“I think the whole situation has been, if nothing else, a learning experience for all sides,” he said.
Do I accept the apology? No. The public is owed an apology, not me.
— Mark Schierbecker (@Schierbecker) November 11, 2015
Although he left the campus protest Monday without injury, Schierbecker told The Post that Click’s actions were more frightening in person than they might have appeared in his video, which has gone viral. He said Wednesday that he knew members of the school’s football team were participating in the protest; at the time of the confrontation, he said, he feared that Click’s provocation might result in violence.
“I didn’t know who was going to come out of the woodwork to stop me from being there,” Schierbecker said. “I think she was the one enforcing the perimeter, basically, and she admitted to me that she got wound up in the moment when she apologized in person.”
But that apology isn’t enough, Schierbecker said. He has asked Click to join him on local NPR affiliate KBIA to record an apology and, he said, conduct an interview that would be broadcast to Missouri listeners.
Schierbecker told The Post that Click said she might be amenable. But, he said, he hasn’t heard back from her since they talked Tuesday.
“If she doesn’t do it I think she has to resign,” Schierbecker said. “I’m putting it out there on Twitter and publicly in hopes that she’ll see it and understand that a public apology is in her best interest. It will also help to soften the hard feelings of journalists who no longer respect this school.”
On Wednesday, a Missouri state senator called on the university to fire Click.
In the professor’s lone public statement about Monday’s confrontation, she apologized for her actions.
“Yesterday was an historic day at MU — full of emotion and confusion,” Click said in a statement released by the Department of Communication on Tuesday. “I have reviewed and reflected upon the video of me that is circulating, and have written this statement to offer both apology and context for my actions. I have reached out to the journalists involved to offer my sincere apologies and to express regret over my actions.
“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.”
What did Schierbecker think about Click’s public apology?
“I thought it was curt and insincere,” he said. “It’s entirely possible that she meant it from the bottom of her heart, but I won’t know until she goes on air, on record, and says it in front of everyone.”