Missouri professor who called for 'muscle' against reporter is charged

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 25, 2016 2:09 PM

By Suzannah Gonzales

(Reuters) - A University of Missouri communications professor who called for "some muscle" to get a student journalist to back off during campus protests in November was charged on Monday with misdemeanor assault, prosecutors said.

The student journalist, whose video of the incident during anti-racism protests went viral, had filed a complaint against Melissa Click with university police.

Click, an assistant professor in the university's communication department, could not be reached for comment.

In the video shot by student Mark Schierbecker, Click can be seen calling on protesters to remove Schierbecker and a student photographer from a spot in the school quad where protesters had set up an encampment which they claimed was private space.

Click's hand can be seen blocking the video image at least twice. She issued an apology for her actions.

Schierbecker, 22, a senior majoring in history and German who plans to pursue a career in journalism, said Click's actions reflect a broader problem facing students and journalists on college campuses.

"I don't want anyone to assume that because the city is dealing with her criminal behavior, that this problem goes away," Schierbecker said in a statement. "I am urging the university to enact reasonable protections that ensure journalists can gather news without being strong-armed."

Interim chancellor Hank Foley told a news conference the university would let the criminal court process play out, Click would not teach classes this week and school officials and faculty leaders would determine if she is to return to the classroom.

Foley also said he was confident she did not pose a danger.

"I think she had a moment of heated anger," Foley said. "I doubt very much that she would do anything like that again."

Foley said the assault charge likely would be a factor in whether to grant Click tenure along with a review of her scholarly works, teaching ability, service to the school and other details, he said.

Click will be issued a summons to appear and given a court date, the Columbia, Missouri, city prosecutor's office said. The charge of third-degree assault, a class C misdemeanor, carries a sentence of up to 15 days in jail and a fine of $300.

(Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)