A journalism lecturer at the University of Missouri is at the centre of a storm of controversy after she was caught on video apparently threatening students who were trying to cover recent protests at the campus.
Video footage that has gone viral appears to show Assistant Professor Melissa Click haranguing student photographer Tim Tai, as he tried to insist he has a constitutional right to cover the demonstrations.
Another student journalist is then seen approaching Ms Click and asking to speak with her. She can be heard telling him to get out, and adds: “I need some muscle over here.”
Ms Click’s sudden notoriety came on a day that the University of Missouri system’s president, Tim Wolfe, and the chancellor of the campus, Bowen Loftin, announced that they were resigning their posts.
They did so in the face of growing protests by students and walk-out by members of the American Football team, amid claims that the college was failing to battle racism on campus.
One student had even launched a hunger strike, the action apparently triggered by the appearance of a swastika drawn in faeces on a campus walkway.
Ms Click did not respond to inquiries on Tuesday. But she later issued an apology, saying she had spoken to the journalists involved "to offer my sincere apologies and to express regret over my actions".
"I regret the language and strategies I used, and sincerely apologize to the MU campus community, and journalists at large, for my behaviour, and also for the way my actions have shifted attention away from the students’ campaign for justice," she said. "My actions were shaped by exasperation with a few spirited reporters."
Reports said Ms Click holds a PhD in communications from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her current research focuses on consumers of the 50 Shades trilogy of erotic novels and fan culture surrounding pop star Lady Gaga.
What has startled many is that Ms Click had recently appeared to offer an open invitation to the media to cover the protests.
“Hey folks, students fighting racism on the MU campus want to get their message into the national media. Who among my friends knows someone who would want a scoop on this incredible topic,” she wrote on her Facebook page.
“The story involves the failure of administrators, a student on day six of a hunger strike, and creative, fearless students. If you can help, please let me know!”
Many at the university distanced themselves from the actions of Ms Click and others who appeared to stop the media from working.
Katherine Reed, an associate professor in the Missouri Journalism School, expressed outrage: “MU faculty member Melissa Click and staffer Janna Basler, shame on you for your behaviour today. Shame!” she wrote. “Unbelievable how many times [Columbia Missourian] reporters and photographers were shoved and verbally abused during #ConcernedStudent1950 protests.”
In an interview with CNN late Monday night, Mr Tai, the photographer, said it was “patently absurd” for Ms Click and others to tell him he was not allowed to be in a public space.
The New York Press Club saluted Mr Tai on Tuesday “who in the face of physical and verbal abuse, stood his ground” while covering the MU protests
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