Melissa Click defends herself in WaPo Op-Ed, as national academic group threatens Mizzou censure.
The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) serves as a de facto authority on academic freedom, having published the guidelines by which most higher education institutions agree to abide, at least in principle if not legally.
AAUP, however, has no legal power to enforce its guidelines. The most it can do is put an institution on a “Censure List,” which supposedly impacts the ability to recruit top faculty. I don’t know whether it actually has that impact, but that’s what’s claimed.
The University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign (UIUC) was put on AAUP’s Censure List after it refused to give a tenured position to controversial hate-tweeting Prof. Seven Salaita. There was a lawsuit by Salaita that was settled for less than the cost of defense without any job. AAUP now is considering whether to remove UIUC from its Censure List.
AAUP is jumping to the defense of Melissa Click, the world-famous “muscle prof” who recently was terminated by the University of Missouri after she was caught on video bullying a student journalist and calling for some “muscle” from the crowd to deal with him.
She also was caught on video aggressively confronting police.
In early February AAUP demanded Click’s reinstatement.
AAUP claims that Mizzou was required to have a faculty committee determine Click’s fate, not the university administration, and is backing Click:
Here is a portion of a statement issued by AAUP on March 7, 2016, which includes a threat of censure:
Julie Schmid, executive director of the American Association of University Professors, today authorized a formal investigation in the case of professor Melissa Click at the University of Missouri. In February, the board of curators of the University of Missouri system summarily dismissed Click from the UM faculty. Normative practice among American institutions of higher education is that a faculty member with indefinite tenure—or a probationary faculty member within the term of appointment—may be dismissed only following demonstration of cause in an adjudicative hearing before a faculty body….
The investigating committee will submit a draft report of its findings to the AAUP’s standing Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure. If Committee A approves publication, the AAUP will send the draft text to the principal parties (including Professor Click and the administration) with an invitation for comment and corrections of fact. After being edited to take into account the comments received, the final text will be published online and in the AAUP’s Bulletin. At its June 3–4 meeting, Committee A will determine, on the basis of the published report, whether to recommend that the Association censure the UM administration at its June 18 annual meeting. Censure can be imposed only by vote of the delegates to the annual meeting.
The censure list is published for the purpose of informing Association members, the profession at large, and the public that unsatisfactory conditions of academic freedom and tenure have been found to prevail at the listed institutions. Censure thus serves as a warning to prospective faculty members that their rights may not be respected at the university.
AAUP’s letter is here.
Mizzou’s letter reads, in part:
Your correspondence has complained that Dr. Click did not receive “an adjudicative hearing before an elected faculty body.” It has asserted that the Board’s dismissal of Dr. Click without such faculty hearing is “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 1958 Statement on Procedural Standards in Faculty Dismissal Proceedings.”
We disagree. On the contrary, the Board’s action in this matter was fundamentally consistent with the key principles of the 1940 Statement and 1958 Statement. Those Statements do not establish an absolute right or requirement for a faculty hearing. Rather, their core principles – and your organization’s standard for censure – concern protection of academic freedom and tenure. This was not a case about Dr. Click’s academic freedom and the Board’s action does not undermine the principle of tenure (which Dr. Click did not have).
While the Board endorses the normative practice of faculty hearings in cases of mid-term dismissal, the Board found it necessary to act on its own in this singular instance when existing Universityprocedures failed to address the seriousness of Dr. Click’s conduct. The Board acted on essential facts that were not in dispute and applied University standards that are consistent with those of your organization’s expectations for a faculty member. It addressed conduct by Dr. Click that was contrary to those basic expectations and at odds with principles of free expression that animate the 1940 Statement. Indeed, by calling for physical intimidation or violence against a student Dr. Click engaged in conduct that, if tolerated, would pose a risk to the safety of students and faculty and fundamentally endanger the University’s academic environment. Ultimately, the decision of terminating a faculty member’s employment rests with a governing board, as the 1958 Statement recognizes. In this instance, it was incumbent on the Board to establish that Dr. Click’s conduct is not compatible with shared principles and expectations of faculty members. In reaching that decision in Dr. Click’s case, the Board provided her with fairness and due process.
The Board’s action did not threaten academic freedom or tenure and does not warrant censure. Rather, it serves as an occasion to review existing practice and processes in an effort to ensure that any future instance of faculty misconduct will be addressed with faculty review and without the need for the Board to act on its own.
Click, for her part, is on a charm offensive with a rather more flattering photo provided by her to accompany an Op-Ed in today’s Washington Post:
Click writes that she was just stressed that day and Social Justice!
In What would our world be like if no one ever took a chance?, Click writes in part:
Getting out the door with a young family on a Saturday morning however, can be a bit of a struggle and my thoughts that morning were dominated by the usual worries of anyone rushing out to the door to a much-anticipated event. Grateful to have found a spot that would accommodate us just moments before the parade began, we were frustrated when the candy throwing and band marching unexpectedly stopped.
When I walked the block between us and the impasse and found myself suddenly in the presence of an unfolding political demonstration, I was immediately faced with a question of conscience. A question I hadn’t anticipated when I hurriedly got ready that morning: Would I remain a spectator, or would I stand with these students enduring disparagement from the bystanders who wished the parade to continue unhindered?…
Among the debates and judgments the video footage of my mistakes has attracted, few have sincerely grappled with the sudden choices I had to make in challenging circumstances, and fewer still have earnestly asked whether my protected right to speak out as a US citizen requires that I must be perfect while doing so.
As a Media Studies scholar, I understand how the increased surveillance resulting from advances in technology like digital recording and wireless broadband has come to mean that our mistakes will be widely broadcast — typically without context or rights of rebuttal — exposing us to unprecedented public scrutiny.
But I do not understand the widespread impulse to shame those whose best intentions unfortunately result in imperfect actions. What would our world be like if no one ever took a chance? What if everyone played it safe?
Sites like YouTube and Twitter host forums in which everyday people are subjected to the kinds of excoriation we have typically reserved for politicians and celebrities — those whose public and private actions, due to their vocations, are judged within the public sphere.
In recent years, however, earnest mistakes made by ordinary, unknown people have increasingly become national topics, their errors invoking astonishing amounts of political fury and having unanticipated impact on their careers, families, and futures.
Reaction to the footage containing my errors has resulted in months of scrutiny and most recently the loss of my job….
Whose interests are served when our drive to combat societal imperfections is defeated by fears of having our individual imperfections exposed?
And what value do our rights as citizens have in a culture increasingly ruled by snap judgments and by regulations that are easily rewritten to suit changing political interests?
We should all be concerned about the larger issues my situation raises.
I don’t want to live in a world where citizens are too afraid of public scorn to take a chance. Do you?
UPDATE: Ed Driscoll at Instapundit compares Click’s Op-Ed to Otter’s defense of Delta House in Animal House: