Loading
Toni AiraksinenToni AiraksinenSep 3, 2016

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.

The college student who caught her on film, and who then eagerly participated in the attacks against her, even seems to consider her termination an achievement.

But now, Melissa Click is back.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported yesterday that she has assumed a post with the University of Gonzaga as a lecturer in their communication studies department.

Good.

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.
4 Replies20 Likes↻ Reply
What do you think? Reply to Toni Airaksinen.
@mrcappadocia@mrcappadociaSep 6, 2016247 views
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
As Franklin mentioned I'm disinclined to view this as one small misstep. Encouraging political violence against Journalists isn't a small misstep. Encouraging a mob to engage against a student isn't a small misstep. It speaks to the core of this woman's ethics and her fitness as an instructor. It was a punch in the gut to everyone who watched it for good reason. If a high school teacher had "consensual sex" with one of her teenage students you wouldn't say "Well guys, she was just having a bad day and whoops, got caught slippin'!" and you certainly wouldn't hand her back her teaching position. If a Professor tried to instigate a mob to use violence to control a student journalist you don't give them their job back. That's a point of no return. Doctors that fondle patients. Lawyers that take bribes. Professors that go on witch hunts.
◇ View3 Likes↻ Reply
@akivacohen@akivacohenSep 5, 2016281 views
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
I generally agree that one mistake in the heat of the moment should not be a career-ender, and that outrage mobs are a problem.

But not in Ms. Click's case. Why? Because her "mistake" went right to the heart of her professional fitness as a journalism instructor. Whatever her merits as a scholar, nobody who could even think to call for "muscle" to push back a journalist covering a news story ought to be teaching aspiring journalists.

I'm glad that she found another position, and even happier that it is not as a member of Gonzaga's Journalism faculty. I wish her success and a long career as a general communications scholar.
◇ View2 Likes↻ Reply
Quick Sign Up
Allthink is a community of free thinkers. It's fun and free.
Email
(private, SPAM-free)
Username
(use A-Z and 0-9 characters only)
Password
(8+ characters long)