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AAUP votes to censure Mizzou over firing of Click

Melissa Click
KBIA - Provided by Melissa Click

The American Association of University Professors voted Saturday to censure the University of Missouri-Columbia over its treatment of Melissa Click, who was fired after her actions during racial protests last fall.

At its meeting in Washington, AAUP delegates voted that Mizzou had violated standards of academic freedom and tenure in its handling of Click. She was first suspended, then fired by the university’s Board of Curators on a vote of 4-2. She had blocked journalists from a rally following the resignation of system President Tim Wolfe, calling for “muscle” to bar a photographer from a student gathering.

In a statement, the organization said that censure “informs the academic community that the administration of an institution has violated generally recognized principles and standards of academic freedom and tenure.”

In a report released last month, the AAUP had said the university bowed to political pressure in its dismissal of Click. Lawmakers in Jefferson City had threatened to cut the school’s budget and look into its operations in the wake of Click’s actions, which also included a confrontation with police during a homecoming parade in Columbia.

“It is difficult not to conclude,” the report said, “that the board’s unilateral decision to terminate Professor Click’s appointment without affording her the faculty hearing required under university policies was in some measure a response to inappropriate legislative intrusion and pressure.

“Indeed, we find no evidence that the curators ever publicly protested this interference or resisted individual legislators’ attempted exercise of undue influence.”

The university had no response to the vote. Instead a spokesman referred to its statement released when the initial AAUP report was released. Then, the university defended its actions, saying the AAUP “overreaches and takes a result oriented path to its conclusions. It does not dispute the key facts of Dr. Click’s misconduct and admits that this is not a case about her academic freedom. Yet it reaches the incongruous conclusion that academic freedom is endangered at the University of Missouri.”

At the organization’s annual meeting, AAUP delegates also voted to remove from the censure list Metropolitan Community College in the Kansas City area from its censure list and remove Lindenwood University from a list of institutions sanctioned for violating standards of academic government.  The annual meeting did not approve a conditional removal of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from its censure list.

The University of Missouri Board of Curators holds the license for St. Louis Public Radio.

Follow Dale on Twitter: @dalesinger

Dale Singer began his career in professional journalism in 1969 by talking his way into a summer vacation replacement job at the now-defunct United Press International bureau in St. Louis; he later joined UPI full-time in 1972. Eight years later, he moved to the Post-Dispatch, where for the next 28-plus years he was a business reporter and editor, a Metro reporter specializing in education, assistant editor of the Editorial Page for 10 years and finally news editor of the newspaper's website. In September of 2008, he joined the staff of the Beacon, where he reported primarily on education. In addition to practicing journalism, Dale has been an adjunct professor at University College at Washington U. He and his wife live in west St. Louis County with their spoiled Bichon, Teddy. They have two adult daughters, who have followed them into the word business as a communications manager and a website editor, and three grandchildren. Dale reported for St. Louis Public Radio from 2013 to 2016.