We have been following the controversy surrounding the outrageous conduct of University of Missouri Mass communications professor Melissa Click attacking the media covering a “Black Lives Matter” protest.” She has now been charged with third-degree assault — an offense that is criminal but likely to result in only a fine.
Click confronted videographer Mark Schierbecker during a campus protest on Nov. 9 and appeared to block him from covering the event. When Schierbecker asks to speak with Professor Click, she tells him
“No, you need to get out” and appears to grab Schierbecker’s camera. “You need to get out. You need to get out.” When the student journalist refused to leave, Click yells to a group of nearby demonstrators: “Who wants to help me get this reporter out of here? I need some muscle over here.”
Click later issued an apology and resigned a courtesy appointment at the Missouri School of Journalism but retained her primary position at the school. As I previously stated, I view Click’s conduct to be so at odds with the academic mission and values that the school should sever all ties with her. The concern is the double standard at our universities. We have discussed that controversy at the University of Californiaand Boston University, where there have been criticism of a double standard, even in the face of criminal conduct. Here you have a communications professor and an administrator seem encouraging protesters in denying a student the ability to work as a journalist on campus. Yet, there is no outcry and demands for review, let alone termination. There is a serious diminishment of free speech occurring on our campuses where a new orthodoxy is rising in the enforcement of preferred speech and positions. The intolerance shown opposing views threatens the very essence of our intellectual traditions and values. The video below vividly shows that trend.
Frankly, I was not advocating a criminal charge as opposed to termination. However, the Missouri degree degree assault law is worded very broadly:
565.070. 1. A person commits the crime of assault in the third degree if:
(1) The person attempts to cause or recklessly causes physical injury to another person; or
(2) With criminal negligence the person causes physical injury to another person by means of a deadly weapon; or
(3) The person purposely places another person in apprehension of immediate physical injury; or
(4) The person recklessly engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of death or serious physical injury to another person; or
(5) The person knowingly causes physical contact with another person knowing the other person will regard the contact as offensive or provocative; or
(6) The person knowingly causes physical contact with an incapacitated person, as defined in section 475.010, which a reasonable person, who is not incapacitated, would consider offensive or provocative.
Since it include offensive and provocative conduct as well as conduct that creates a reasonable apprehension of injury (like calling for “muscle”), the charge is likely to be viewed as valid. I find the language of the statute dangerously vague, particularly in the context of free speech activities (even abusive speech like Click’s). I would prefer to have no criminal charge but a judge is likely to view Click as having tripped the wire with her call for muscle to handle a student journalist.
What do you think?