A college professor fired for supporting union activity and the removal of Confederate statues will get her job back, following a settlement agreement reached on Thursday.
Collin College education professor Suzanne Jones was fired last year for her political speech—speech that her public university had no right to terminate her over. Jones sued, backed by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). The parties reached a generous settlement this week, with the school promising to rehire Jones on a $230,000 two-year teaching contract, and pay her six-figure legal fees.
Collin College's firing of Suzanne Jones was one of the most blatant instances of outright politically motivated faculty censorship in recent years—and the hefty price paid by the school will hopefully serve as a warning for other colleges tempted to quash faculty rights.
According to a lawsuit filed in September 2021, Jones was told in January of that year that her teaching contract would not be renewed.
The lawsuit reports that the reason for her termination, according to the college's provost, was that "Jones had challenged Collin College's [COVID-19] reopening plans; and . . . Collin College asked Jones to remove references to Collin College in publicly accessible websites," on two separate occasions. According to FIRE, the first incident occurred after Jones signed her name and college affiliation on an open letter calling for the removal of Dallas Confederate statues in 2017. The second time occurred in 2020 when Jones "used the name of Collin College on a website associated with the Texas Faculty Association, a statewide faculty union Jones helped organize at Collin College."
After the college denied Jones' formal request to be reinstated, she filed suit. "When Jones exercised her freedom of expression, as detailed above, it was related to matters of public concern…that were outside the scope of her duties as a professor," Jones' attorneys wrote. "Collin College has not alleged that Jones' speech hindered operations or that her speech impeded her from carrying out her job. To the contrary, [the school's Vice President] described Jones as 'an excellent faculty member.'"
However, Jones managed to win her job back. In the settlement reached Thursday, Collin College officials agreed to rehire Jones on a two-year contract—and pay her hefty legal fees.
"This is a huge victory—not only for Suzanne but for every single professor around the country who hesitates to speak up because an administrator wants to silence them," FIRE attorney Greg H. Greubel said after the settlement was released. "Censorship is un-American. FIRE is proud to defend people of all political views who are punished simply for speaking their minds. And we're not stopping now."
Suzanne Jones was fired for obviously protected speech. Her recent legal victory will hopefully serve as a warning to other college administrations eager to punish faculty for their political activities.
"You can't fire professors simply for exercising their First Amendment rights," FIRE attorney Josh Bleisch said. Invoking the school's President, he continued, "How much more taxpayer money is President Matkin going to throw away before he gets the message? Lawsuits are our last resort when colleges prove unwilling to respect faculty and the First Amendment. But we won't stop until Matkin ends his regime of silence."