COLUMBIA — MU faculty member Melissa Click and MU staff member Janna Basler have apologized. And Tuesday night, Click resigned her courtesy appointment with the Missouri School of Journalism.

Click teaches mass media in the Communication Department. The School of Journalism is a separate entity.

Click was caught up in an incident Monday between a freelance photographer and protesters near the Concerned Student 1950 camp on Mel Carnahan Quadrangle.

"Yesterday was an historic day at MU — full of emotion and confusion. 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," Click, an assistant professor in the Department of Communication, said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon by the College of Arts and Science.

"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," the statement said.

"Courtesy appointments with doctoral faculty are basically honorary in nature," Esther Thorson, the journalism school's associate dean for graduate studies, said in an email Wednesday.

Thorson said doctoral dissertation committees are required to have at least one person from another academic discipline.

"A person does not have to be a courtesy appointment holder," Thorson said. "However, Courtesy appointments may serve EITHER as internal OR external members, providing more flexibility for our doctoral students."

Ten communication faculty members serve in courtesy roles, Thorson said. Five other non-journalism professors have courtesy appointments with the journalism school.

Courtesy appointments in the journalism school require nominations by doctoral faculty and are voted on by the journalism school's promotion and tenure committee before going before Dean David Kurpius for final approval, Thorson said.

The Journalism School's Executive Committee, including Kurpius, met Tuesday morning to discuss the vote and prepare a statement on Click's actions Monday as seen in footage of an incident between the photographer, Tim Tai, an undergraduate in photojournalism, and the protesters — including MU's Greek Life and Leadership Assistant Director Janna Basler.

On Tuesday night, Click attended a meeting with the doctoral faculty* and the journalism school's promotion and tenure committee. Kurpius said Click resigned her courtesy appointment before a vote was taken. Kurpius said the committee discussed other matters, but that Click's appointment was the only item for which a vote was planned.

Click left the meeting, which began around 5 p.m. in the basement of Switzler Hall and ended just after 7 p.m., at around 5:45 p.m. As she left the meeting room, she said she had no comment to make. At that time, she had not yet resigned.

Prior to leaving, Kurpius said, Click discussed her perspective and her reasons for resigning; he declined to elaborate, saying Click would be releasing additional comments on Wednesday after putting together a "clarifying statement."

"One of the things of good journalism is to get all the facts, and we wanted them directly from her to have context and understanding," Kurpius said.

A vote on whether to end her appointment was about to start, Kurpius said, when Click offered her resignation via telephone. 

"She's not a bad person," Kurpius said in an interview Tuesday night. "... 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."

Also, the MU Police Department increased its presence on campus after threats were made against Click.

About 3:15 p.m. Tuesday, MU Police Maj. Brian Weimer confirmed the department is "aware that there have been threats made against her (Click)." He said the department has "stepped up patrols" and was performing "walkthroughs" across campus.

Kurpius said he had heard about Click receiving "horrific threats." He called such threats "unacceptable" and said he hoped Click would be treated respectfully.

Click was seen at the end of the video asking for assistance and for "muscle" to remove MU junior Mark Schierbecker, who filmed the interaction and uploaded his footage to YouTube. Basler was seen pushing and berating Tai in the video. 

Angela Dahman, MU's Division of Student Affairs marketing and communications manager, said Basler would not be available for an interview Tuesday. 

"We are focused on securing her family's safety right now," Dahman said in an email.

At 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, the MU Office of Greek Life released a statement attributed to Basler. 

"As a student affairs professional, I take my responsibility to students very seriously," Basler said. "Yesterday, I allowed my emotions to get the best of me while trying to protect some of our students. Instead of defusing an already tense situation, I contributed to its escalation. I regret how I handled the situation, and I am offering a public apology to the journalist involved.

"I have the utmost respect for journalists and the profession of journalism. I have devoted my career to helping students learn and develop outside the classroom. What happened on Carnahan Quadrangle has been a lesson for me. I am deeply sorry for what happened."

Mark Lucas, Department of Student Life director, said in a statement that he and Cathy Scroggs, vice chancellor of student affairs, were "reviewing videos and will be having conversations with individuals present in order to understand what happened."

Kurpius and Thorson characterized Click's actions as a clear violation of First Amendment rights. Kurpius said taking actions that might escalate a peaceful protest was "unwarranted."

Click has been an assistant professor at MU since 2008, serving as a resident instructor and visiting instructor between 2003 and 2008. She earned her Ph.D. in 2009 from the Department of Communication at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. 

Click chairs MU's Student Publications Committee, the job of which is "to recommend to the vice chancellor for Student Affairs policies and regulations regarding the publication of the Maneater and Savitar." The Maneater is MU's student newspaper, and Savitar was the school's yearbook, which was discontinued.

On Tuesday afternoon, Thorson said in an email that the doctoral faculty met at 1 p.m. after indicating via email that they wanted to meet face to face.

"The discussion has not concluded, and no decision has yet been made about the courtesy appointment," Thorson wrote at the time. 

Kurpius said he was not aware of Click ever having taught a journalism class at MU, adding that she might be able to teach a cross-listed course.

"Dr. Click does not teach journalism courses," Thorson said in an email. "She serves on some doctoral committees."

Thorson said "the complexities and ethical challenges are such" that the faculty "has not made a decision and will continue to meet." She cited "issues of pushing a student" and "issues of saying something inflammatory" as well as the notion of a "safe space" on public property.

Kurpius said it was the responsibility of any faculty member "to support the First Amendment rights of all students and staff."

Attempts to reach Click earlier on Tuesday were unsuccessful; a call to her university phone number indicated that her voicemail inbox was full.

In an email to Chris Bennett, an attorney in Austin, Texas, and an MU graduate, College of Arts and Science Dean Michael O'Brien said, "I in no way condone what Dr. Click did, but I hope (key word) that we can chalk this up to inflamed passion and inexperience." 

O'Brien indicated that he and Mitchell McKinney, who chairs the Department of Communication, would be meeting with Click. 

"Faculty (and students) have a right to express their views, but they do NOT have the right to intimidate others," O'Brien wrote in the email. "This has been an awful time for the university, but that in no way condones intimidation."

Bennett, who graduated in 2005 with a degree in interdisciplinary studies, emailed O'Brien on Monday night, saying he was "absolutely horrified" to see the video of Click. 

"I just let him know that I thought it was absolutely unacceptable for a member of the faculty to threaten violence against any journalist, and especially a student journalist," Bennett said Tuesday in an interview.

Click was not tenured, McKinney said in an email Tuesday night. On Tuesday afternoon, the Department of Communication released via Twitter a statement attributed to McKinney.

"The University of Missouri Department of Communication supports the First Amendment as a fundamental right and guiding principle underlying all that we do as an academic community," McKinney said in the statement. "We applaud student journalists who were working in a very trying atmosphere to report a significant story. 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. According to the University's Collected Rules and Regulations (HR 114), we will not be able to comment on any personnel matters."

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

  • Former reporter and assistant city editor. Reach me at: ws.missouri@gmail.com or @ws_missouri.

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