As a Missouri voter, as Mizzou alumn, as a citizen concerned about the future of higher education in America, I have been profoundly troubled by the events surrounding and following the protests last fall at the University of Missouri-Columbia: Troubled by what these events tell us about academia today, troubled about what they tell us about the media today.
Much has been written about this issue, and the story continues to unfold. Yet I find myself amazed at the utter lack of analysis of one of the most amazing documents to come out of this debacle: The December 14th letter signed by 116 MU faculty in support for Professor Click, with names and departmental affiliations in fairly well-formatted, machine-readable text*.
Sometimes the letter is cited as evidence of widespread support for Professor Click among the faculty, but this is utterly unwarranted as even the most cursory analysis would reveal. What it really tells us is which parts of the faculty support her. It was a trivial task to write a program to do frequency counts to determine which departments this support was coming from. Shockingly, I have not seen anyone publish this.
For context, a brief summary of relevant facts: On 2015-12-14, a letter in support of Professor Melissa Click was sent to several top Mizzou administrators. A few signatures were added the following day, resulting in a total of 116 signatures from Mizzou faculty (mostly current faculty, some retired). On 2015-12-18, 100 (of 163) members of the MO House of Representatives sent a letter calling for the termination of Professor Click’s employment at MU, and 18 (of 34) members of the MO Senate sent a letter calling for the termination of Professor Click’s employment.**
On 2016-01-04, State Rep. Caleb Jones and State Sen. Kurt Shaefer, both Republicans representing Columbia, MO, issued a press release about the 2015-12-18 letters. The following day, a copy of the letter of support from some of the faculty was published by The Maneater, which describes itself as “the official student newspaper of the University of Missouri [which] is a student organization that operates independently from the student government, the School of Journalism and any other campus entity.”
Below, I list the departmental affiliation of signatories of the faculty who wrote in support of Professor Click. In second column, I list the number of signatories listed by that department–faculty listing multiple departments are double counted in this column. For perspective, I have included the size of the department, as measured by the number of non-retired faculty listed on the department’s webpage.*** The third column only counts each signatory once–in whatever department was listed by the most people, and gives a cumulative percent. As can be seen, over two thirds of the signatories come from just 6 departments: English, Religious Studies (the departmental chair is the husband of Professor Click), German & Russian Studies, Romance Languages & Literature, History, and Women’s and Gender Studies.
We see very few signatures from any of the professional schools and colleges. None from the School of Medicine, none from the College of Veterinary Medicine, none from the College of Engineering. There are a handful from from the School of Journalism, the College of Education, and the School of Law. Even within the College of Arts and Sciences, there is not a single person from Mathematics, Statistics, and only one each from from Physics & Astronomy, Chemistry, and the Division of Biological Sciences.
|Department||Faculty signatories (Size of Department)||Faculty signatores, no double counting (cumulative percent of signatories).|
|English||38 (of 38)||38 (32.8%)|
|Religious Studies||10 (of 9)||10 (41.4%)|
|German & Russian Studies||10 (of 15)||9 (49.1%)|
|Romance Languages & Literatures||9 (of 29)||9 (56.9%)|
|History||7 (of 22)||7 (62.9%)|
|Women’s & Gender Studies||8 (of 10)||6 (68.1%)|
|Art History & Archaeology||4 (of 8)||4 (71.6%)|
|Classical Studies||3||3 (80.2%)|
|School of Information Science & Learning Technologies||2||2 (81.9%)|
|School of Journalism||2||2 (83.6%)|
|Psychological Sciences||2||2 (88.8%)|
|Black Studies||3||2 (90.5%)|
|Health Sciences||2||1 (91.4%)|
|School of Music||2||1 (93.1%)|
|Rural Sociology||1||1 (94.8%)|
|Physics & Astronomy||1||1 (96.6%)|
|Biomedical Sciences||1||1 (97.4%)|
|Center for English Language Learning||1||1 (98.3%)|
|School of Law||1||1 (99.1%)|
|Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis||1||1 (100.0%)|
* With the signatures, ‘&’ is part of a departmental name (e.g. ‘department of physics & astronomy’ is one department), while ‘and’ (with a few exceptions) distinguishes between departments (e.g. ‘Departments of Sociology and Women’s & Gender Studies’ is two departments), although they are inconsistent in usage of ‘Department of’ vs. ‘Departments of’ for dual appointments (e.g. ‘Department of Black Studies and School of Music’ vs. ‘ Departments of Health Sciences and Women’s & Gender Studies’.
** They also called for the termination of the employment of Janna Basler, Assistant Director of Greek Life at MU who had been placed on administrate leave for her actions during the November protests. She had returned to her job shortly before the letters from the MO General Assembly had been sent.
*** Note that because retired faculty are excluded from this count but may be included among the signatures, the numbers in this column may not be used to calcuate the percent of current faculty who signed the letter.