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That an untenured assistant professor of communications can cause the University of Missouri so much grief remains the centerpiece of the ongoing drama at Old Mizzou that just won’t go away. On our last visit, we boldly suggested returning this contentious educator to the classroom while allowing her case to pass through the accepted channels of administrative discourse and procedural steps at MU.
Acknowledging threats of possible investigation and censure of the University of Missouri by the American Association of University Professors, we cautioned against tangling with this anointed group of overseers because censure could harm MU in retention of existing academic staff, as well as in recruitment and replacement within the professorate in the future. While hardly placating the statewide mob that wanted her sacked, we figured the university would at least remain in good standing amongst its peer group of research-oriented institutions and, not incidentally, the prestigious but unrelated American Association of Universities.
Isn’t it wonderful how video technology and the Internet have become the twin gifts of communication that keep on giving, long after the muscular confrontation on November 9 began its slow fade off the world stage? Many of us were ready to accept her apologies, and the plea bargain with the law, until another even more damaging video lit up screens worldwide. This was the sequence where she screamed the F-bomb at a duly constituted member of the Columbia Police Department at the Ninth Street and University Avenue intersection during the homecoming parade on October 10.
A hearty thank-you-very-much to Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton for equipping the members of his force with body cameras in what turns out to be a pioneering effort in this area. There was that face again, wildly flailing and weirdly distorted by the optics of a wide-angle lens, that should dispel any notion of ever allowing this person back on our campus after her rough, uncalled-for moments were recorded and released for posterity a few weeks ago.
A budding professor of communications, you say. Is there not a scintilla of dignity in speech and public behavior left anymore? You could imagine remarks uttered in some family settings across Missouri about the coarse, uncivil behavior of a person presumably vetted to provide a dignified educational setting for our children, both in the classroom and in public. You could almost hear mothers and fathers out somewhere in the state saying, “If that was my daughter, I would have slapped her.”
Be gone, we say, to this budding assistant professor of communications. And bring it on, we also say, to the AAUP, in what may turn out to be a mercifully short gestation period that, sometime later this year, could send MU to the academic woodshed for a while. A three-person investigative team of Ph.D.-caliber academics will have come and gone by the time you read this, and the solons of this august agency of elites are expected to release their findings within a few months, perhaps allowing the university some room for negotiation and arbitration on the way.
Some of us remember April 24, 1973, when the AAUP dropped the censure bomb almost three years after two Mizzou professors — Drs. Daryl J. Hobbs (1934-2014) and Bill Wickersham — were involved in protest activities both in and outside Jesse Hall between May 13 and 18, 1970, after the May 4 shootings at Kent State University in Ohio. Their case, and the delayed AAUP censure, was a reflection of the arrogant, ham-handed response to their non-violent confrontation with MU Chancellor John W. Schwada (1919-1990) and Dean of Students Jack Matthews (1905-1993) that was exacerbated by the subsequent punitive response by the Board of Curators, which docked their pay.
But this time, things are different.
Just go away, Ms. Click. Just go away.
Count on MU being bloodied by a majority of parochially-motivated legislators in Jefferson City who long for redistribution of some of the goodies we have long cherished here. This begs the unthinkable idea, to some, of creating an expanded, geographically balanced University of Missouri System, patterned along the lines of multi-campus systems in New York and California. There would be pain, of course. But wouldn’t this be a great time to stifle all the foolish quarreling between the regions of the state? Let’s grow up and create an asset that would make all Missourians proud of their state university system.