COLUMBIA, Mo. – While the new University of Missouri administration works to move forward, a name from the embarrassing recent past has resurfaced as the target of an embezzlement probe.
Janna Basler, who alongside Professor Melissa Click, was suspended by the university two years ago for harassing a student journalist while attempting to enforce a “safe zone” on the public quad at the Columbia campus. Basler was later returned to her job in student housing after her suspension and then promoted to senior associate director for Greek life, while Click was ultimately fired after a lengthy public backlash.
Basler, the former Associate Dean of MU Student Life, was let go in the recent layoffs after a reduction in state funding and a sharp drop in student enrollment.
“Janna is no longer an employee of the university. As a policy (HR 114), we don’t discuss reasons why an individual has left the university,” Basi said in an email Wednesday.
However, multiple sources have confirmed to The Missouri Times that while Bassler was leaving the university, she became the target of the embezzlement probe that was first identified by an employee in the Greek Life office in mid-July. Basler’s name was quietly removed from a list of staff members in the student life section of the school’s website during their reorganization.
Initially, internal auditors were asked to review available information, and their review identified the suspicion of criminal activity. A report was filed with the MU Police Department on Tuesday, July 25, before being handed over to other law enforcement authorities. As for how much money may be involved, the university says that the scope of the possible misappropriation of funds will be determined through the criminal investigation.
It’s not the first time that Basler has been involved in controversy at the Columbia-based university, as both Basler and Click were in a video which went viral in 2015, showing student photographer Tim Tai’s clash with University of Missouri protesters, as well as Click confronting journalists who were attempting to cover the protests. It also showed Basler shoving Tai, and telling him to back off.
“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 told Tai.
When the student photojournalist asked if she was with the office of Greek Life, she responded, saying her name is Concerned Student 1950.
Since the 2015 incidents, the University of Missouri System has been in a process of trying to move forward, severing ties with former UM System President Tim Wolfe, as well as facilitating an almost complete turnover in administration leadership.
“There are lessons learned from every university and for us, we have to take those best practices whether it’s at the University of Missouri or University of Connecticut, and learn from that, I think that’s key,” UM System President Mun Choi said when taking over in 2016, explaining his hopes for the university to continue moving forward.
If the authorities do find that embezzlement occurred, they will encourage prosecution.
Benjamin Peters was a reporter for The Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine and also produced the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined The Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield.