University of Missouri Censured for Alleged Violations of Due Process

Members of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) voted unanimously over the weekend to place the University of Missouri (MU) in Columbia on its censure list, alleging that the university mishandled the firing of Melissa Click, former assistant professor of communication studies at MU. Their vote means the AAUP in effect has found the university guilty of violating academic due process.

Click was videotaped interfering with a student videographer and calling for “muscle” during protests at the university last November. Facing pressure from state legislators, the MU Board of Curators met behind closed doors in February and voted to fire Click, effective immediately. An investigative report conducted by AAUP in May concluded that the board had circumvented university protocol for disciplining faculty and succumbed to political pressure in its decision to terminate Click.

The association’s decision to censure MU does not reflect its stance on Click’s behavior, however; some AAUP members say her actions at the time of the protests were problematic, but they also said that should not affect her right to due process.

“Faculty have differing views about Dr. Click’s actions, however, many agree that she deserves a fair and in-depth review to clarify the context of her actions and to establish facts,” AAUP’s MU chapter said in a news release. “Trial by Internet, mass media, and a curator’s ‘edited’ report by a private law firm cannot substitute for this university’s established processes for evaluating allegations of faculty misconduct.”

The MU Board of Curators stands by its decision to fire Click and referred requests for comments to its earlier statement, issued after the AAUP investigative report was first released.

“Fact: The board’s decision to consider the case came after existing faculty processes failed to address [Click’s] misconduct,” the statement reads. “After initiating and reviewing an objective fact investigation, which exonerated Dr. Click on some allegations, the board acted in the best interests of the university. We have stated repeatedly that this case is not setting a precedent for future actions related to faculty discipline.”

To be removed from the AAUP’s censure list, the university will have to provide evidence of settling a similar case in the future without violating regulations.