Campus Free Speech

Breaking: Mizzou Prof Melissa Click Faces Misdemeanor Assault Charges

The worst campus censor of 2015 could go to jail for 15 days.


Melissa Click

The University of Missouri communications professor I dubbed "the scowling face of campus repression" has been slapped with a misdemeanor assault charge, according to the Columbia Prosecutor's Office.

Authorities decided to charge her with third-degree assault for threatening to sic some "muscle" on a student-journalist attempting to cover the rally at Mizzou in the wake of President Tim Wolfe's resignation in November. The charge, a Class C misdemeanor, carries a max sentence of 15 days in jail, The Kansas City Star reports.

Meanwhile, more than 100 Republican state legislators have called on Mizzou to fire Click, who previously held an honorary appointment in the journalism department.

I have previously pushed back against the notion that Click's serious lapse of judgment should result in her termination. (Many others disagreed.) I don't think I've changed my mind about that, although a conviction for assaulting a student seems like an excellent pretext to go ahead and fire her.

There certainly should be consequences for threatening a student-journalist, but social punishment is a powerful one, and Click has already faced that. If the additional step of sending her (briefly) to jail re-asserts the sovereignty of the First Amendment on public university campuses, perhaps it will be worth it. On the other hand, I worry that criminal sanctions for Click could actually have a chilling effect on speech, given that law enforcement is often eager to use public safety as an excuse to prohibit all kinds of expression.