University of Missouri professor suspended in wake of assault charge

Assessing coverage of University of Missouri protests


The University of Missouri on Wednesday suspended an assistant professor who was charged with assault in a campus fracas with student journalists during protests in November.

Melissa Click was charged Monday morning with third-degree assault, the Columbia city prosecutor’s office confirmed to Fox News. If she is found guilty her penalty would ultimately be up to a judge, but would likely require paying a fine, a spokesman from the prosecutor’s office said.

A YouTube video shows Click confronting videographer Mark Schierbecker during a campus protest on Nov. 9 and apparently trying to block him from shooting video on a public quad. At one point, Schierbecker asks to speak with Click, who promptly tells him to leave.

"No, you need to get out,” she says, pointing away and then seeming to grab Schierbecker’s camera. “You need to get out. You need to get out.”

When Schierbecker refuses to leave, Click yells to a group of nearby demonstrators: “Who wants to help me get this reporter out of here? I need some muscle over here.”

The board of curators ordered its general counsel to conduct an investigation so it can determine whether additional discipline "is appropriate," Pam Henrickson, chair of the board, said in a written statement.

Click "is suspended pending further investigation," the statement said.

Earlier Wednesday, the interim chancellor at the University of Missouri’s Columbia campus spoke about the November protests during his “State of the University” speech, calling that chapter painful, but declaring that the student’s push toward more inclusivity is a priority.

"One way to regard student unrest is a sign that the institution has not kept pace with change, especially with students' and the public's expectations," Hank Foley, who took the helm at the campus less than three months ago, said. "The tension around race relations and the campus climate shows that we need to do more to be fully inclusive."

Foley said having the system's troubles draw national scrutiny was difficult, but added, "I'm asking our Mizzou family to come back together around a love for this great institution."

Foley took over after R. Bowen Loftin resigned Nov. 9, along with the system's president, Tim Wolfe, amid discord that included a student's hunger strike and members of the school's football team pledging to boycott the rest of their season until Wolfe was gone.

Foley's address and Click's suspension came the same day several newspapers reported that Wolfe, in an email to supporters and donors after his resignation, criticized most officials involved in the turmoil leading to his exodus.

Wolfe insisted the university is "under attack" by the Missouri Legislature, rendering the board of curators "frozen" by the pressure, and asked the email recipients to press the board to sweeten a financial package for him that he's negotiating the university.

Click has since issued an apology and resigned a courtesy appointment at the Missouri School of Journalism. That appointment allowed her to serve on graduate panels for students from other academic units, the Columbia Missourian reported.

Also Wednesday, board of curators member Yvonne S. Sparks resigned. She did not mention the turmoil at the Columba campus in a statement released by the board.

"After careful consideration of the demands of my professional obligations and those required to engage in the work of the Board at the level that I expect of myself, I have concluded that it is not possible to do both well," said Sparks, who works in the banking industry and who was appointed to the board by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon last year. "This is an important and demanding time for the System, the role deserves a representative that is able to that devote."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.