The hiring of a Missouri dropout.
University of Missouri, with Yale, was one of the first politically driven campus explosions during the 2015-16 academic year. Last fall, Black Lives Matter-fueled demonstrations triggered a threatened football team boycott and the president’s resignation. Missouri has since seen a steep drop in enrollments.
During one demonstration communications professor Melissa Click called for “some muscle” to eject a videographer from protests, a display that circulated widely on the Internet. A misdemeanor assault charge was later dropped. Driven in part by an outraged state legislature, Missouri fired her earlier this year.
You would think that Click — who came to symbolize leftist intolerance on campus nationwide — would look for another career. Not so, on the crazy train that runs through academia today.
Click now has a new job as a lecturer at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington.
Click comes close to a parody of today’s trendy academic. Her 2009 doctorate in Communication from the University of Massachusetts came with a dissertation entitled, “It’s ‘a good thing’: The commodification of femininity, affluence and whiteness in the Martha Stewart phenomenon.”
What little writing she has done focuses on subjects like Lady Gaga, Twilight, the vampire movie, and the mega-best-seller, Fifty Shades of Grey. She terms her research area “popular culture texts and audiences disdained in mainstream culture, theories of gender and sexuality, and media literacy.”
Gonzaga, a tuition-starved Jesuit school in eastern Washington known mainly for its basketball team, is a big step down, true. Missouri has one of the nation’s best journalism schools. Gonzaga is nowheresville. Moreover, Click was hired for a one-year, non-tenure track position, which means she was pretty desperate.
Click appears to be a shameless egomaniac and possibly delusional. “I’m not a superhero,” she told the Chronicle of Higher Education, clearly loving her celebrity and notoriety. She thinks of herself as a victim. “This is all about racial politics,” she said. “I’m a white lady. I’m an easy target.”
But the issue here isn’t Click, a real turkey. Godspeed to her and her students. The onus rests with the people who hired her.
Said Elisabeth Mermann-Jozwiak, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Gonzaga: “Dr. Click was hired through an extensive national search process that revealed her to be the most qualified and experienced candidate for the position,” adding, “We are confident she has learned much from her experiences at the University of Missouri and believe she will uphold the rigorous standards of academic excellence demanded of Gonzaga faculty and students.”
Mermann-Jozwiak, author of Postmodern Vernaculars: Chicana Literature and Postmodern Rhetoric (2005, Lang, 160 pp.), is a Professor of English and Women’s and Gender Studies.
Communication Studies department chair Jonathan Rossing, who was on the search committee, said: “After the national search and the screens took place, she emerged as the top candidate based on her record of teaching, scholarship.”
Rossing studies “the rhetoric of social justice, particularly in relation to race and racism in the United States, and focuses on television comedy and improvisation as a subject,” so Click and Rossing seem to be intellectual soulmates.
Mermann-Jozwiak and Rossing’s public statements are grossly dishonest about how Click’s appointment came about. No college conducts a genuine national search for a one-year, non-tenure track lecturer; the idea of a dean ordinarily being involved in such a hire is ridiculous.
It looks like Gonzaga wanted some publicity, which it is getting. Perhaps some trustees at the provincial Jesuit institution want to shed troubling vestiges of Ignatian spirituality and are eager to hop on the crazy train. Maybe they’re clueless. But the Mermann-Jozwiaks and Rossings who are doing the hiring know what they want and what they are doing. Click might be in their minds a catch.
Whatever the case, Click’s appointment is another example of the absolutely broken hiring and reward system in higher education today, and the audacity of those who control it.
Mark Schierbecker/Creative Commons