Melissa Click’s charges set good precedent

Last semester, the American people witnessed a blatant violation of the First Amendment occur at the University of Missouri. Melissa Click, an assistant communications professor at Mizzou, pushed away and physically threatened members of the media covering a public demonstration on Mizzou’s campus in the wake of University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe’s resignation.

Last week, Columbia’s city prosecutor charged Click with third-degree assault. Mizzou subsequently suspended her from working at the university. It was only days later that Click and the city prosecutor reached a deal. She will forgo the prosecution as long as she serves 20 hours of community service and does not break the law for one year.

For those who may have missed it or need a little catching up: Wolfe resigned after students protested his status as president, citing him as unwilling and uninterested in fixing alleged racism on campus. Passions piqued after Wolfe’s resignation. The protesters considered it a victory and celebrated en masse on Mizzou’s campus.

Some think Wolfe’s resignation was either unfair or didn’t solve anything concerning Mizzou’s alleged racism problem. While others think the vacancy at the presidential position would leave the university with the opportunity to right its wrongs. But Click comes at pivotal point in this saga.

Click’s escapade with the media was caught on camera. This brought her scorn in the national news when the video of her went viral, including the Baylor Lariat publishing an editorial condemning her actions and those who assisted her unlawful efforts that day. Nothing has changed about the Lariat’s stance on that.

At the time of the incident, there was, of course, no verdict or trial set for Click. The legal process almost never runs as fast as public opinion, but the American people had already seen enough with her video. She clearly violated the First Amendment.

For Click, massive public humiliation, a public apology, charges from the city of Columbia’s prosecutor and a job suspension later, there’s no doubt she has paid a price for her egregious, un-American actions on that day. She failed the school she worked for and the very cause she was trying to represent.

First, she failed Mizzou as a teacher and role model for the students. Click was not alone in threatening the media that day. She had students surrounding the media, physically forcing and taunting the reporters and cameramen to go away.

Those students should be ashamed of themselves. The damage Click did to them students and their understanding of the first amendment is immeasurable.

Second, she devastated the credibility of the movement responsible for petitioning and protesting for Wolfe’s resignation. Her actions revealed the problem that this movement was seeking change. To this day, the student group known as Concerned Student 1950 supports Click. Furthermore, Concerned Student 1950 charges the university administration with white supremacy and social degradation.

The group released this statement in reaction to Mizzou’s expressed interested in investigating the incident with Click:

“Click is a white woman, professor, and ally who supported historically marginalized students at the University of Missouri during a time when students were exposing the institution for preserving racism. The University of Missouri System is devoting time to tarnishing Click’s career instead of dismantling the oppressive RACIST social system it perpetuates!”

The statement concludes with this:

“We will remain committed to ensuring our demands are met by any means necessary.”

The Concerned Student 1950 downplays, perhaps even ignores, what Click did that day. God forbid anything like this happen again. However, if it does happen again, no university, prosecutor or American citizen should take it lightly. And that should include Concerned Student 1950 – a group obsessed with its interests who will stop at nothing to achieve them, regardless of whether they’re done lawfully or not.

The Lariat’s qualm with violations of the First Amendment were thoroughly and extensively argued last semester. The freedoms endowed in the First Amendment are absolutely vital to the American republic. Without it, we, the American people, lose our identity.

The story is not quite over, but the city of Columbia has made an example out of Click, which is a step in the right direction. Mizzou also made a statement in suspending Click, following the charges, and said they will follow through with an investigation. Violating the First Amendment is unacceptable and should be punished. That much is clear.