In Defense of Melissa Click, Now at Gonzaga University
When Melissa Click, a former professor at the University of Missouri was caught on film yelling at a student journalist, and trying to prevent him from filming a protest happening on campus, Click became a poster child for professors behaving badly. Not long after, she was fired.
But now, Melissa Click is back.
Melissa Click's cardinal sin was, essentially, that she made a mistake in how she handled a student journalist who was attempting to film campus anti-racism protests. She was trying to protect the protesters, the narrative goes, and so she tried to shield them from Mark Schierbecker, the student with the camera. There was yelling, calls for "some muscle over here,' and perhaps what some would consider an attempt to curtail freedom of the press.
While I don't agree with either of their actions, there's something to be said about bad judgments made heated moments in the age of social media: make one misstep, and someone might make it their personal agenda to destroy your career.
Outrage journalists are the opposite of good samaritans; instead of seeing someone in distress and attempting to help them, these people make a concerted effort to go out of their way to make the situation worse. This is what happened with Click.
Right wing media in particular, attacked hard. (Who dares to stop a journalist from documenting what has been described as college student "grievance mongering," which delightful fodder for the post-college crowd?)
As for the people that called for her termination, what's more distressing, is that being party to an outrage machine means that you've enabled yourself to assert yourself as being on the right, and morally virtuous side of an issue. And the more you attack the weak, the more justified and righteous you feel. This is what many right-wing commentators did. It's a sadistic way of stroking your own ego. Throw a few punches, why not. She deserves it, right? Eh. I don't think so. But hey, whatever helps you sleep at night.
One small misstep---and let's be real, we all make them---shouldn't cost someone their career. Watching the Melissa Click saga unfold was a distressing public scandal to watch. I kept thinking: Could this happen to my friends, my family, or my professors? Particularly for the adjuncts? Could it happen to me? Or someone else I know? In the age of viral media, any mistake made in a heated moment could end up ruining your career.
Politics aside, I'm glad that Melissa Click found a new home at Gonzaga. Having followed her case for a while, it's heartwarming that she was able to bounce back.Toni Airaksinen is a rising Junior at Barnard College in Manhattan. She has also written for Quillette and The Columbia Spectator. She tweets @Toni_Airaksinen.