- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Leaders of the National Press Club on Tuesday condemned the “bullying” of a student reporter by his peers and faculty at the University of Missouri, amid campus clashes caught on video that have sparked a nationwide debate about free speech.

A video uploaded to YouTube by Mark Schierbecker showed student activists trying to intimidate Tim Tai, a student photographer who was reportedly on assignment for ESPN, in an effort to keep him away from an enclave of protesters, the National Press Club said.

The video also showed Melissa Click, an assistant professor in the university’s Department of Communication, and Janna Basler, assistant director of Greek life, trying to keep reporters away from the Concerned Student 1950 protest camp.

“Mr. Tai was correct when he told the protesters that he has a First Amendment right to photograph in a public space, just as the activists have a First Amendment right to protest there,” John Hughes, president of the National Press Club, said in a statement.

“The National Press Club calls upon the University of Missouri to make clear to its students and staff that reporters should not be kept from doing their jobs — and certainly not through physical force or threats,” he said. “In the home of one of the world’s great journalism schools, such behavior cannot be tolerated.”

In one video from Monday’s clashes, Ms. Click is shown trying to grab a recording device from Mr. Schierbecker, before calling to the mob of protesters forming a human wall behind him to “muscle” him out of the “safe space” area.

Faculty in the Missouri School of Journalism were voting Tuesday to revoke a courtesy appointment for Ms. Click, who teaches mass media in the Department of Communications, which is part of the university’s College of Arts & Science, not the School of Journalism, The Missourian reported. A courtesy appointment allows members of one academic unit to serve on the graduate committees of students from other academic units, the paper said.

Journalism Dean David Kurpius and Esther Thorson, the journalism school’s associate dean for graduate studies, characterized Ms. Click’s actions as a clear violation of First Amendment rights.

A simple majority from the group is needed to revoke a courtesy appointment, Ms. Thorson told The Missourian.

“It’s close,” she said of the vote. “But we have some strong voices concerned about fairness [to Ms. Click].”

“The discussion has not concluded, and no decision has yet been made about the courtesy appointment,” she said, adding that a second faculty meeting likely would be held Tuesday night.


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