Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Faculty is Failing the Missouri Protestors and Student Journalists

By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

The current saga at the University of Missouri has taught us several things, not the least of which being that a mediocre football team threatening to strike has more power at a large state school than its president does.

That, I took as the good news. These athletes, who bring in millions of dollars to their schools every year, are of course unpaid, and restricted from working jobs by NCAA rules (and by the fact that their sport is essentially a full-time job, and there are only 24 hours in a day).

Missouri by itself brought in over $83 million in revenue last year, thanks to its inclusion in the SEC's television deals, and pooled revenue from the conference's bowl game and NCAA men's basketball tournament appearances.

Basically, if these kids can't get any slice of that pie, then at least they could flex their collective muscle and enact social change on their campus.

Add in the fact that canceling Missouri's game with BYU this weekend might have cost the school $1 million (there was the potential for a negotiated buyout with BYU), and the fact that Missouri averages over $2.5 million per game in ticket sales, plus concessions, and it was a no-brainer that president Tim Wolfe had to step down.

With a potential $3 million in revenue to be lost, and another million that might need to be paid away to BYU, the stakes were high, far higher than Wolfe's $459,000 annual salary.

So that's all fine and dandy. These kids make the university a ton of money and don't see a dime of it, so they threatened to take away the Golden Goose for one week and the school caved. Pretty awesome story if you ask me.

But why were students protesting and the football team threatening to strike in the first place? Well, there were several incidents of "in-your-face" racism, including people on campus directing racial slurs at Missouri Students Association President Payton Head, and at members of the Legion of Black Collegians.

That began the Concerned Student 1950 movement, which got its name from the first year Missouri began admitting black students. The group drew national attention when it blocked Wolfe's car during the school's homecoming parade, forming a human barricade around Wolfe for 15 minutes. The group chanted and made speeches until being dispersed by police.

Still, this was a peaceful protest done by a group that was frustrated that its emails, Tweets and calls for more thorough diversity training and public condemnation of racism were seemingly being ignored by the administration.

So far, so good.

The group then issued a statement of eight demands, that called for, among other things, Wolfe's resignation, a formal apology and an increase in black faculty members.

All pretty seasonable given Missouri's spotted history with race relations, and the apparent indifference of the current administration. Still, I don't think anybody ever fully expected Wolfe to resign. These demands are often thrown out by groups, then the two sides come together and reach a compromise.

Then a swastika was drawn on a university bathroom wall in human feces (gross in many ways), and CS 1950 did get their meeting with Wolfe, though nothing came out of it.

Then came November 2nd, when student Jonathan Butler began a hunger strike he claimed would not end until Wolfe resigned, and students began camping in Carnahan Quad to support him. Shortly thereafter, the national news media picked up the story, and less than a week later, Wolfe had issued an apology, and black members of the Missouri football team had threatened to strike. A day after, the entire team, including head coach Gary Pinkel and his staff, said they will stand together until Wolfe is out.

And guess what? It worked!

This was a huge victory for an activist group of students on campus, but admittedly, not all of their problems are solved. So the students are still protesting and still camping in the quad, which is fine.

What isn't fine is what they are doing to journalists (some of whom are fellow students) that are simply trying to document these historic events.

Check out this video below of a photographer, later identified as Missouri student Tim Tai, who was freelance shooting for ESPN, and a videographer trying to get footage of the on-campus protests.

If you don't feel like watching it, here's a brief summary for you.

-The protestors don't believe the photographer "has the right" to take their picture, which is wrong. They are in a public space, making a scene. He has every right to take a picture of them, especially since this is such a newsworthy event.

-The student photographer astutely drops some Constitutional knowledge on the people making his life miserable. Look, I'm sure these protestors mean well, but they should probably learn that "Freedom of the Press" is included in the First Amendment, especially if they're going to keep citing their First Amendment right to assemble.

-The protestors have formed a human barricade to block media out, a fine tactic since nobody should be allowed to physically push through you to get into the camp site. But, the crowd then begins walking outward, pushing members of the media backward. If they can't push you, what makes you think you have the right to push them?

-Members of the crowd repeatedly touch both the photographer and videographer's equipment, and threaten to call the cops. Yeah, I'd love to hear that 911 call. "Hey, officers, we're out here causing a huge scene, trying to draw attention to ourselves and camping on state property, but this person is standing here with a camera. I have the right to be here but he doesn't (for some reason)."

-Perhaps the most obnoxious person in this entire scene is the woman that first appears at around 7:10 of the video (pictured at the top of the article), when the videographer has made it into the camp site. After she tells him he needs to leave and grabs his video camera, he correctly claims that he has a right to be there because it's public property. She responds by saying, in a very sarcastic tone, "that's a good one, I'm a communication (inaudible) and I really get that argument, but you need to go!"

Turns out, this woman is an Assistant Professor of Mass Media at Missouri! That's right, her name is Melissa Click, and she should know better.

She then says she needs someone to help her remove the videographer, screaming "I need some muscle over here!"

Pardon my French, but are you fucking kidding me?!

This woman doesn't understand that these (student) journalists have every right to be there?! And, to make matters worse, she's threatening to "get muscle" as a form of intimidation to make them leave!?

No wonder these protestors have no idea what is legal and illegal, not to mention what is ethical and unethical, the faulty that has gotten involved in this movement is absolutely insane!

You know what this Assistant Professor should be doing (since she's an expert in Mass Media and all)? She should be explaining to her students what the rights of the media are, and what their rights are when dealing with the media. She could also explain to them that the media is predictable (seriously, this woman wrote a Ph.D thesis about Mass Media, she should know a little something about how the media works), and use that to the movement's advantage.

But no, she's instead chosen to bully student journalists, when she should be thrilled that one of them is on a freelance assignment for ESPN. Will she use this historic moment to start a conversation about the role of mass media in cultural events, or teach students on both sides of the issue to behave ethically when they have idealogical differences?

Nope, she's going to call for "muscle."

I would say I'd expect more from someone with a doctorate, but when you look at some of her publications, such as "Bitten by Twilight: Youth Culture, Media and Vampire Franchises," you get the idea that this woman knows nothing about media ethics or the ways the mass media impacts our lives, other than making us choose between Team Edward and Team Jacob.

If anyone at Missouri should be out of the job this week, it's this woman. She has failed students within the movement she was hoping to help by not properly informing them, and she has failed the student journalists at her very school.

I feel like I should also take this time to point out the irony that Missouri boasts one of the finest journalism schools in the country, but also has faculty members actively impeding student journalists from potentially career altering work with national media outlets.

Make no mistake about it, the saga at the University of Missouri has shown the power of students and student athletes coming together to fight for a cause, but don't ruin it now by letting these people be your mouth pieces. It's time to re-focus your message and make it about the issues at hand, not about whether or not a reporter can take pictures on the quad.

Will you be a group that enacts social change and works with the university for a better tomorrow, or just another group of hippies that protests for the sake of protesting? We'll probably find out in the next few days.

No comments :