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The head of the University of Missouri's journalism department praised one of its students Tuesday for standing up to campus protesters who tried to block his access to a celebration over the resignation of the school's president.
Journalism School Dean David Kurpius praised senior Tim Tai for the way he handled himself when he tried to take pictures on a campus quad when protesters "blocked his access through physical and verbal intimidation."
"Tai handled himself professionally and with poise," Kurpius said in a statement.
Kurpius also said his staff was reviewing a courtesy appointment held by a professor who tried to prevent another journalist from filming at the encampment. The professor, Melissa Click, is a member of the communications department, which is separate from the journalism school.
"Journalism School faculty members are taking immediate action to review that appointment," Kurpius said.
Click later resigned from the courtesy appointment. Kurpius said. The department of communication said in a statement it could not comment on personnel matters.
The confrontations occurred Monday, when journalists arrived at the quad to document activists who'd succeeded in forcing the resignation of the university's president. Tim Wolfe had come under withering criticism for his handling of a series of racist incidents on campus this fall.
The activists, calling themselves Concerned Student 1950, turned their complaints of racism into a national story. But instead of welcoming media coverage of their celebrations, the activists pushed back.
In one confrontation, Tai, a senior at the university's journalism school who had been contracted by ESPN, took photos while activists locked arms and made a widening circle around the camp to keep journalists away.
A faculty member, identified by the Columbia Missourian as Greek Life and Leadership Assistant Director Janna Basler, blocked him and told him to leave.
"You don't have right to take our photos," one student told Tai.
Several began to chant: "Hey hey, ho ho, reporters have got to go."
Tai told them they were all permitted to be there, on public property.
"This is the First Amendment that protects your right to stand here, and protects mine," he said.
The episode was captured on video by Mark Schierbecker, who then slipped inside the circle and approached Click.
"I'm media. Can I talk to you?" Schierbecker asked.
"No, you need to get out," Click said.
"No, I don't,' Schierbecker said.
Click pushed his camera, then turned toward the camp. "Hey, who wants to help me get this reporter out of here? I need some muscle over here."
Schierbecker said it was it his right to be there.
Click then identified herself as a member of the communications faculty.
"I get that argument," she said. "But you need to go." She blocked his camera with her hand.
Schierbecker then walked to the outside of the circle, but continued to film. An activist held up a sign that said: "Media: Please Stay Off the Grass."
The activist, a young woman, told him, "Take a good picture of this."
The two journalists, and the group "Concerned Student 1950," defended themselves on Twitter afterward.