EXCLUSIVE: Videographer Thrown Out of Mizzou Protest Has Grim Outlook for Future of Free Speech and Race Relations

I had the unique opportunity to interview Mark Schierbecker over the weekend regarding his viral Melissa Click video from the November protests at the University of Missouri and her recent termination from the college. Schierbecker’s video culminated the outrage built up over the span of several months, resulting in protests and in some cases violence.

“This was the intersection of a lot of social movements on campus,” Schierbecker stated, citing the loss of graduate student healthcare coverage, the Michael Brown incident, the close proximity of the Ferguson protests, and various other allegedly racial incidents. According to Schierbecker, it wasn’t until the football team got involved that the administration started to give in to protester demands.

Protesters were camped out on the campus lawn for days, but the volatility didn’t escalate to its peak until the day the university president announced his resignation. Schierbecker said professor Melissa Click, whom he did not know at the time, was seen in an altercation at the protest with another reporter grabbing his camera prior to the incident we see in his viral video. “I got there at a pretty timely moment,” Schierbecker said, having gotten involved with the incident merely as a bystander trying to capture video footage.

ESPN freelancer Tim Tai was being pushed out of the public area by protesters who demanded that the media “respect their privacy.” “I went over for his safety,” said Schierbecker, assuming that the video camera would influence the crowd to behave in a more civilized manner. In his footage of the incident, Tai can be seen ultimately being pushed out of the protest areas however Schierbecker was ignored and able to cross the barrier of students between him and the protest area.

Having seen Melissa Click in an altercation with the media before, Schierbecker approached her nearby the tent area of the protests. “I found who I had wanted to talk to […] I basically just wanted to know […] why do you feel the media doesn’t have a right to cover your story?” As seen in the video, Click told Schierbecker that he needed to “get out” and that she needed “muscle” to throw him out. “It ended up getting physical,” said Schierbecker, “I eventually relent […] I draw the line right at before I get physically punched.”

Melissa Click was charged with assault and has recently been fired in part due to this incident and others caught on camera as well.

When asked about the outlook of free speech on college campuses, Schierbecker gave a rather negative perspective. “I think students now are more sensitive than they’ve ever been […] obviously I have a problem with the methods the protesters are using.” Particularly with regards to race relations in the country which has spurred much of the civil unrest that has led up to these protests, Schierbecker was equally grim. “I wish I had a prescription or a diagnosis to the problem, but I really don’t.”

Follow Mark Schierbecker @Schierbecker on Twitter. Watch the full interview here.

Why the Constitution is NOT a Living Document

One of the more popular contemporary interpretations of the Constitution is the notion that it is a living document, or that its meaning changes over time. Indeed, it is easy to think that a document that is more than 200 years old might by now become at least a little outdated, or even irrelevant. However, my contention is that the values and principles embodied in the Constitution are just as relevant today as they were when the founders first created it. With this in mind, the Constitution should be interpreted not as a living document, but as close to the original intent that the Founders had in mind.

The most important reason why the Constitution should not be interpreted as a living document is that it opens the door for all other kinds of ideas to be read into its meaning. This is a major flaw with those who adhere to a nonoriginal approach to interpreting the Constitution; of all of the approaches it is the, “most vulnerable to the charge of illegitimacy,” (May, Ides, 2013, p. 39). Who is to say what parts of the Constitution are outdated and which parts are not? Without a baseline of original meaning, the consistency of rulings is put in danger—one judge may read new meaning into a phrase in the Constitution for one reason, another may read something completely different into that same phrase for other reasons. An original intent approach seeks to preserve the ideals that the Constitution was designed to uphold, rather than risk its perversion with a living document approach.

One of the problems that our textbook claims is associated with an originalist approach to the Constitution is that it causes the document to be unable to address the new and contemporary issues that did not exist at the time of its creation. This argument cites the different types of speech—radio, T.V., Internet—that did not exist in the 1700s that under a strict and specific version of originalism could be rendered unprotected under the 1st Amendment (May, Ides, 2013, p. 38). This approach, however, is actually a form of textualism rather than originalism, taking only the strict meaning of the words of the Constitution—which actually could rule out even some forms of speech available in the 1700s—and disregarding the principle of free speech that the Founders originally intended to uphold.

References

May, C. N. Idea, A. (2013) Constitutional Law: National Power and Federalism. New York: Wolters Kluwer Law & Business.