Melissa Click, an assistant professor at the University of Missouri who was captured on video Monday aggressively confronting a journalism student covering a campus protest, has apologized for her actions and resigned her courtesy appointment with the Missouri School of Journalism.
“Yesterday was an historic day at MU — full of emotion and confusion,” Click said in a statement released Tuesday by the university’s Department of Communication. “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.”
“Who wants to help me get this reporter out of here?” Click can be heard asking in a video of Monday’s confrontation with a student journalist, Mark Schierbecker. “I need some muscle over here.”
“This is public property,” Schierbecker is heard saying.
Covering Schierbecker’s video-camera lens with her hand, Click says, in a derisive tone: “Yeah, I know, that’s a really good one; I’m a communication faculty, and I really get that argument. But you need to go. You need to go. You need to go.”
Click teaches mass media in the university’s Department of Communication, which is in MU’s College of Arts and Science. She also held a courtesy appointment with the Missouri School of Journalism, which she resigned Tuesday night.
According to the Columbia Missourian, “a courtesy appointment allows members of one academic unit to serve on graduate committees for students from other academic units.”
The newspaper reported that the Journalism School’s Executive Committee was about to vote “on whether to end her appointment … when Click offered her resignation via telephone.”
“She’s not a bad person,” Journalism School Dean David Kurpius told the Missourian. He added that “she wanted to explain what happened. I thought it was very appropriate. She was intelligent and thoughtful and apologetic for many of the things that had happened.”
In her apology, Click — who remains a member of the Department of Communication — said the experience taught her about “humanity and humility.”
“When I apologized to one of the reporters in a phone call this afternoon, he accepted my apology,” the professor’s statement said. “I believe he is doing a difficult job, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to speak with him. His dignity also speaks well to the Journalism program at MU. Again, I wish to express my sincere apology for my actions on Carnahan Quad yesterday.”
Click issued a follow-up apology on Wednesday lamenting the impact her actions had on the university’s School of Journalism, as well as on the Chancellor’s Student Publications Committee, which she chaired. In that role, her job was “to recommend to the vice chancellor for Student Affairs policies and regulations regarding the publication of the Maneater and Savitar,” according to the Columbia Missourian.
“I have enjoyed working with the faculty, staff, and students in both groups and deeply respect their missions,” the statement says. “Effective today, I have resigned my affiliation with MU’s School of Journalism and the Chancellor’s Student Publications Committee to allow them to continue their important work without further distraction.”
On Wednesday, Mark Lucas, director of Missouri’s Department of Student Life, released a statement saying a second woman seen in the video has been placed on administrative leave while the department investigates her actions. Janna Basler, the director of Greek Life and Leadership, was captured on film telling journalism students to “back off” before repeatedly making aggressive physical contact with at least one student.
“Sir, I am sorry, these are people too,” she can be heard saying on camera. “You need to back off. Back off, go!”
In an e-mail sent to The Washington Post, Tim Tai, a student journalist who was confronted by Click and Basler as a camera rolled, confirmed that the professor had apologized to him by phone and said that he had accepted her apology. Tai called Click “gracious” and said that he feels bad that she has received “nasty messages” from people who viewed the video.
“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.
On Tuesday, Kurpius, the Journalism School dean, said in a statement that faculty members were “taking immediate action to review” Click’s courtesy appointment and noted that the faculty was “proud” of Tai for handling himself “professionally and with poise.”
“The news media have First Amendment rights to cover public events,” Kurpius said in the statement.
“The events of Nov. 9 have raised numerous issues regarding the boundaries of the First Amendment,” the statement added. “Although the attention on journalists has shifted the focus from the news of the day, it provides an opportunity to educate students and citizens about the role of a free press.”
This post, originally published Nov. 10, has been updated.