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Controversial Mizzou Professor’s Firing Raises Due Process Concerns

By February 29, 2016

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has asked the University of Missouri to reverse its termination of Professor Melissa Click over concerns she was fired without due process.

During last fall’s campus protests at Mizzou, Click, an assistant professor of mass media who also held a courtesy appointment in the journalism school, was recorded calling for “muscle” to remove a student reporter from a public area.

The recording made national news.

Soon thereafter, Click apologized and resigned her courtesy appointment in the School of Journalism. Then, in January, she was charged with misdemeanor assault stemming from the incident. Two days later, Click was suspended from Mizzou. Last week, the Board of Curators of the University of Missouri System fired her.

In the letter to Mizzou Interim Chancellor Henry C. Foley sent Friday, AAUP Assistant Secretary Hans-Joerg Tiede wrote that despite the Board of Curators’ assurances it went to “significant lengths” to ensure due process, concerns remained over the board’s atypical actions in this case. Specifically, Tiede notes that the board did not provide Click a fair hearing before a faculty body, as required by university rule:

According to the announcement, the board’s assessment of Professor Click’s conduct was based on an investigation by an outside law firm. … We understand that while the board of curators has offered Professor Click the opportunity to appeal the decision to the board, it has not provided her with a hearing before a faculty body. As the announcement acknowledges, the process by which Professor Click’s appointment was terminated was “not typical.”

[…]

Beyond its evident lack of conformity with the regulations of the University of Missouri, an action to dismiss a faculty member with indefinite tenure or a probationary faculty member within the term of appointment absent demonstration of cause in an adjudicative hearing before an elected faculty body is an action fundamentally at odds with basic standards of academic due process as set forth in the joint 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure and the complementary 1958 Statement on Procedural Standards in Faculty Dismissal Proceedings.

As such, this action is a matter of basic concern to our Association under its longstanding responsibilities. We therefore urge in strongest terms that the board of curators immediately rescind the notice of termination issued to Professor Click and that any subsequent action be consistent with the institutional regulations of the University of Missouri and with the AAUP supported procedural standards cited above.

While FIRE has been critical of Click’s actions during the Mizzou protests, it in no way lessens the importance of ensuring faculty members are afforded due process. A renewed commitment to procedural due process by Mizzou not only would comport with the institution’s promises to its faculty, it would also give students and faculty increased confidence that a fair and accurate result will be reached in every termination proceeding.

Melissa Click—like everyone else—is entitled to nothing less.

Schools: University of Missouri – Columbia