Missouri student protesters remove signs that ban the media from campsite

Update, 11/11, 4:30 pm: Professor Melissa Click is no longer listed as the chair of the student publications committee, Poynter reported Wednesday. The Maneater student newspaper’s top editors had previously called for her removal as chairwoman. 

Update, 11/11, 11 am: Professor Melissa Click has resigned her courtesy appointment with the Missouri School of Journalism. She is still an assistant professor of mass media at the Department of Communication. It is unclear if she will remain the chair of the student publications committee — in a statement, SPLC Executive Director Frank LoMonte called for her to resign from the committee or be removed, “having exhibited disregard for the welfare of student journalists.” 

Update, 11/10, 6:30 pm: Professor Melissa Click has apologized via a statement. “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.” See full statement here

MISSOURI — The “No Media | Safe Space” signs were removed from the campsite on the University of Missouri’s campus quad on Tuesday, following a video that went viral of protesters barring a student photographer from taking pictures of the encampment.

“We plan to learn and educate as we grow,” Reuben Faloughi, one of the movement’s original organizers, tweeted. The activist group, Concerned Student 1950, has been protesting and calling attention to racial issues on campus. Their activism has led to the resignation of system President Tim Wolfe and university Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin.

Faloughi tweeted a picture of the PSA that had gone out to the campsite organizers. It said the media has a First Amendment right to occupy the campsite and the press is “important to tell our story and experiences at Mizzou to the world …. Let’s welcome and thank them!”

The video, recorded by student reporter Mark Schierbecker, showed protesters yelling at and barricading Tim Tai, a student photographer on freelance assignment for ESPN, as he tried to take pictures of the tents on the campus quad on Monday. Tai consistently cited the First Amendment, but students told him to leave and respect their privacy.

At the end of the video, Schierbecker asked to speak to Melissa Click, an assistant professor of mass media in Missouri’s Department of Communication. Click told him to “get out,” grabbing at the camera. Schierbecker said he did not need to leave, and Click walked away, yelling, “Who wants to help me get this reporter out of here? I need some muscle over here.”

The extended cut of the video shows Schierbecker saying that this is public property. Click, with her hand over the camera, said, “I know, 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.”

In an interview Tuesday, Schierbecker said he thinks Click should have resigned this morning, effective immediately.

“Any other university would have washed their hands of her by this point,” he said. Shierbecker said he hadn’t heard from administrators about the incident yet.

Many people, including the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple, have called for the university to fire her. There is a Facebook page titled “Hey Hey Ho Ho Melissa Click Needs to Go” that has almost 600 likes. According to the Columbia Missourian, police have said that threats have been made against Click. (Click could not be reached for comment.)

The Missouri School of Journalism Dean David Kurpius released a statement on Tuesday that praised Tai for behaving “professionally and with poise” during the confrontation with the student protesters. Click, he said, is a faculty member of the Department of Communication, not the School of Journalism, but she does hold a courtesy appointment with the Journalism School.

The Journalism School is taking “immediate action” to review her courtesy appointment, Kurpius said. According to the Missourian, faculty are voting tonight. A simple majority from Journalism School doctoral faculty and members of the school’s Promotion and Tenure Committee is needed to revoke a courtesy appointment, the paper reported.

According to the Missouri website, Click is also the chair of the student publications committee, which makes recommendations of policies and regulations of the Maneater and the Savitar.

Schierbecker said that while he was recording the protesters, he also saw a professor he had taken a class with before. That professor wasn’t being physical, he said, but still was being confrontational.

“I lost a lot of respect for him,” Schierbecker said.

As the backlash against Click and the other protesters who barred the media continues, some have worried that the national spotlight is being taken away from the activism of the students and their fight to expose racism on campus.

“The events of Nov. 9 have raised numerous issues regarding the boundaries of the First Amendment,” Kurpius said. “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.”

Contact SPLC staff writer Madeline Will at 202-833-4614 or by email.

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