Gonzaga has hired a professor recently involved in controversy to a one-year, non-tenure track position as lecturer in the department of communication studies.
Melissa Click was fired from University of Missouri on Feb. 25 for trying to remove a photojournalist from a student protest, organized by the black-student advocacy group Concerned Student 1950, on Nov. 9, 2015, amid racial tensions on campus. She spent 12 years at the University of Missouri.
The protests were in response to a series of racist incidents on Missouri’s campus, and resulted in the resignation of UM President Tim Wolfe on the same day.
“She was very transparent and clear about some of the events at Missouri, so there was no surprise or anything,” said recently hired Communication Studies Department Chair Jonathan Rossing, a member of the search committee. “After the national search and the screens took place, she emerged as the top candidate based on her record of teaching, scholarship.
“The committee was unanimous in deciding that she would be one of the two people to whom we offered the job.”
Click received the job at GU in late June after a three-person search committee conducted a national search. She is one of three new hires in the department and is teaching four sections of Communication and Speech this fall, an introductory communications course
“Dr. Click was hired through an extensive national search process that revealed her to be the most qualified and experienced candidate for the position,” Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Elisabeth Mermann-Jozwiak said in a statement Friday. “Dr. Click has excellent recommendations for both her teaching and scholarship, which includes an extensive record of publication. We are confident she has learned much from her experiences at the University of Missouri and believe she will uphold the rigorous standards of academic excellence demanded of Gonzaga faculty and students.”
In a video of the Nov. 9 demonstration, Click called for “more muscle” in an attempt to remove journalists from the scene after escalating tensions with protesters. The incident, which occurred on UM’s Carnahan Quadrangle — public property — went viral and depicts the journalists, since identified as photojournalists Tim Tai and Mark Schierbecker, attempting to cover the protests.
The city prosecutor later brought a misdemeanor assault charge against Click on Jan. 25, 2016, for pushing Schierbecker’s camera away from the scene. The charges were dropped when she agreed to do community service. More than 100 lawmakers called for her to be fired, according to the Washington Post.
“I value my 12 years of service to the University of Missouri,” Click told the Bulletin in a drafted statement. “I learned much from the events of fall 2015 at MU and continue to use that experience to become a better teacher, scholar and community member.”
She declined to comment on whether she has or would take any legal action against the University of Missouri. She also referred any questions about the past year to her statement, adding, “I’m interested in looking forward, not back.”
In May, the American Association of University Professors found through an investigation that it was not convinced Click was fired on adequate grounds. Its study concluded that the University of Missouri’s Board of Curators “undermined the authority of both the faculty and campus administrators.”
The board rejected the AAUP’s findings.
Despite her public dismissal at Missouri, Click said she was confident that she would land a similar job as soon as she did.
“I believe that I have a strong career,” Click said. “I’ve proven myself in many areas of academia and, yeah, I was confident that I would find myself in another position.”
Click’s 12 teaching awards set her apart from other candidates, Rossing said. She received a Provost Junior Faculty Award and a student-nominated teaching award from the College of Arts and Sciences at Missouri.
“With accomplishments like that,” Rossing said, “and the narrative she spoke about and a teaching philosophy that really resonated with Gonzaga’s mission of educating undergraduate students that care for the whole person, those were really things that stood out to us.”
Click began at MU in 2003 as a visiting instructor, was appointed to a tenure-track position in 2008 and finished her Ph.D. in 2009 from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
She publicly apologized for the incident on Nov. 10 and reportedly reached out to the two photographers to express regret over her actions.
Some six months after the termination at Missouri, Click is back in the classroom.
Growing up on the East Coast, Click said it is the first time she has lived on the West Coast. And GU presented her with a chance.
“I’m really excited for the opportunity to put time and effort and have that effort be respected and rewarded,” Click said, “to put that effort back into teaching, it’s a wonderful opportunity.”
The following timeline is a compilation of events that led to the University of Missouri firing Click to her being hired at GU. The dates and events were gathered from a statement by the University of Missouri terminating Click’s employment, Click’s addendum to the report and information from an interview Friday with Dr. Click and Dr. Rossing.
Sept. 12, 2015: Missouri Student Association President Payton Head writes a long post on Facebook in which he describes that the night before on campus a pickup truck had driven past him and repeatedly called him "the N-word." The post went viral.
Oct. 5, 2015: The Legion of Black Collegians writes that a "young man" approached the group the night before on Traditions Plaza and, when asked to leave, he responded with racial slurs.
Oct. 10, 2015: Dr. Click joins blockade of Missouri homecoming parade; confrontation with Columbia (Mo.) Police Department.
Oct. 24, 2015: A swastika made of human feces is drawn on the wall of a bathroom in MU's Gateway Hall.
Nov. 2, 2015: MU graduate Jonathan Butler stages seven-day hunger strike to pressure President Wolfe to resign.
Nov. 5, 2015: Payton Head posted on Twitter a slideshow of racist comments made by MU students.
Nov. 5, 2015: Concerned Student 1950 canceled a protest planned to take place during the evening football game after concern for their safety.
Nov. 7, 2015: The MU football team lends support to Concerned Student 1950 by stating it won't play again until President Wolfe resigns; MU football fans respond negatively on social media.
Nov. 8, 2015: A pickup truck flying the confederate flag drives around the tent camp on Missouri’s Carnahan Quad at night.
Nov. 9, 2015: University President Tim Wolfe resigns due to pressure over how he handled racist incidents on campus, as well as other issues. MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin also announced he would leave his job and shift to a different role.
Nov. 9, 2015: Click attempts to exclude people from public spaces on Carnahan Quadrangle; attempts to prohibit Tim Tai and other media from covering event; knocks MU student Mark Schierbecker's camera ajar and calls for "muscle" to remove him from area.
Nov. 10, 2015: Threats against black people are posted to the anonymous messaging app Yik Yak. One message read: "I'm going to stand my ground tomorrow and shoot every black person I see."
Jan. 25, 2016: City prosecutor brings charge against Click for assaulting Schierbecker.
Jan. 27, 2016: Board of Curators suspends Click and orders investigation to determine whether additional discipline is appropriate.
Jan. 28, 2016: Bryan Cave law firm commences investigation.
Feb. 4, 2016: Board of Curators schedules a meeting for Feb. 24.
Feb. 12, 2016: Bryan Cave completes investigation and provides investigative report to Click for response.
Feb. 19, 2016: Click submits addendum to investigative report.
Feb. 20, 2016: Investigative report and Click's response provided to Board of Curators.
Feb. 22, 2016: Public Notice of board meeting for Feb. 24.
Feb. 24, 2016: Board meeting and vote.
Feb. 25, 2016: Announcement of Click's firing made.
Late June/Early July 2016: Click is hired on a one-year lecturer track at Gonzaga University.
By Andy Buhler, Editor-in-Chief; email: email@example.com; Twitter: @a_buhla.
Kiki Serantes contributed to this report.