Last year, Texas-based Collin College fired professor Suzanne Jones for signing an open letter calling for the removal of Confederate monuments, using the name of the institution in a website associated with a faculty union, and calling for reopening of school amid the pandemic.
She sued the school and the administrators responsible for her termination, including president H. Neil Matkin. Vice president Toni Jenkins described Jones as an “excellent faculty member,” and still agreed with Matkin’s decision not to renew her contract, against the advice of her dean, provost, and associate dean.
She was being represented by the Foundation of Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), which argued that Collin College is a public institution, therefore, it is legally obligated to respect the freedom of speech.
The defendants’ motion to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds of qualified immunity was dismissed. This week, Collin College agreed to a settlement that included a two-year teaching contract at the institution worth $230,000 and $145,000 in legal fees.
We obtained a copy of the settlement agreement for you here.
“You can’t fire professors simply for exercising their First Amendment rights,” said FIRE attorney Josh Bleisch. “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.”
History professor Lora Burnett won a First Amendment lawsuit against Collin College in January. She sued after she was fired for criticizing the administration and public officials. In March, the school, Matkin, and other administrators were sued by history professor Michael Phillips for firing him for criticizing the school’s Covid policies and more.