The Volokh Conspiracy
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Today, administrators at Collin College agreed to a settlement that includes reinstating education professor Suzanne Jones, fired by the institution last year for her protected speech. The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression represented Jones in her lawsuit….
As part of the settlement, the college agreed to a two-year, $230,000 teaching contract with Jones and to pay $145,000 in attorneys' fees. …
Under President H. Neil Matkin, Collin College — the epicenter of censorship in Texas — fired Jones on Jan. 28, 2021. The college cited three incidents that led to her firing:
- In 2017, Jones signed her name and college affiliation on a published open letter supporting the removal of Confederate monuments in Dallas.
- In 2020, 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.
- Jones, who sat on the Collin College Faculty Council, publicly supported the council's proposed plan regarding campus reopening amidst the pandemic.
Despite calling Jones an "excellent faculty member" with positive reviews and extensive service to the college, Collin College Vice President Toni Jenkins joined Matkin to authorize the non-renewal of Jones' teaching contract—against the recommendations of her associate dean, dean, and provost….
In September 2021, Jones sued Collin College and the administrators responsible for her termination. FIRE began representing Jones on Feb. 14, 2022. In August, the court denied a motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity and ruled that Collin College administrators could be held personally and financially responsible for their actions. The court called the defendants' argument "dead on arrival" and said their actions were "clearly unconstitutional."
FIRE filed two other lawsuits against Collin College.
- In January, history professor Lora Burnett prevailed in her own First Amendment lawsuit against the school after she was fired for criticizing public officials and the Collin College administration. Under the court judgment, Collin College agreed to pay more than $70,000 in damages plus attorneys' fees.
- Less than two months later, history professor Michael Phillips sued the college, Matkin, and other university officials for violating his constitutional rights by firing him for talking about history and criticizing the college's COVID-19 policies. In September, the court denied the College's motion to dismiss, allowing Phillips to proceed with his claim alleging the College imposed an unconstitutional prior restraint on his speech….