Janna Basler, the Assistant Director of Greek Life at the University of Missouri joined a mob of student protesters who shoved out a lone freelance photographer for the Columbia Missourian attempting to capture images of the event.
Basler refused to identify herself when Tim Tai, a student at the university, asked if she worked for the school’s Greek Life office as she joined in with students who shoved Tai and became verbally abusive.
The group calls itself “Concerned Student 1950,” referencing the year Mizzou began admitting black students.
The protest — which resulted from a few campus incidents that eventually triggered the resignation of Mizzou’s president Monday afternoon — created a “safe space” within a public area within the school’s quad. Protesters blocked reporter access to the area and surrounded any journalist who stepped over their boundaries.
Tai moved over the boundary to take photos and was surrounded by a student mob as Basler shoved up against him.
“Sir, sir, I am sorry. These are people too. You have to back off! You know, back off from my personal space. Back off! Leave these students alone,” Basler said, as she shoved Tai with her body.
Tai responded, “Don’t push me!”
The crowd grew and the students among them began to heckle Tai. One female student, that Baseler was blocking, also shouted at Tai.
“Well you know what? She gets to decide if she wants to talk to you or not — she doesn’t want to see you. She doesn’t want to see you,” Baseler said, as she shoved Tai further back.
Again, Tai asked Baseler not to push him, but Baseler accused Tai of pushing her.
“You’re with the office of Greek Life?” Tai asked her incredulously.
“My name is 1950,” Basler responded.
Tai asked again.
“No, my name is Concerned Student 1950,” She said.
The students continued to heckle Tai asking why he had to take their photos.
“Because I have a job to do,” Tai said.
Basler interrupted Tai. “They have a life to live. They have an education and a life to live. They have an education to get and a life to live. Please leave!”
“Hey, I’m a student too!” Tai said.
Basler dismissed him saying, “But, sir, there are more students that are asking you to leave.”
Even after Tai explains he wants to photograph the protest to “document this for history” the crowd pushes him out further.
“Everybody else has documented it. You got photos. You got it. You documented it. Please,” Basler said.
Columbia Missourian executive editor Tom Warhover was angered over the incident telling L.A. Times reporter Matt Pierce, “I’m pretty incensed about it. I find it ironic that particularly faculty members would resort to those kinds of things for no good reason. I understand students who are protesting an want privacy. But they are not allowed to push and assault our photographers – our student photographers.”
Basler was not the only faculty member who went after Tai. Dr. Melissa Click, a professor in Mass Media was also part of the crowd and called for “muscle” to go after another reporter. Similar to Click, Basler’s Twitter feed is locked up.
Following the upload of the video, Tai received support from journalists and the public alike. He tweeted, “Wow. Didn’t mean to become part of the story. Just trying to do my job. Thanks everyone for the support.”