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.”
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.