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Academic Association Opens Investigation into Collin College over Fired Professors

The AAUP has put Collin College on notice.EXPAND
The AAUP has put Collin College on notice.
illustration by Sarah Schumacher
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Collin College continues to free fall in a downward spiral of bad publicity.

On Tuesday, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) announced that it’s launching an investigation into the dismissal of two of the school’s former faculty members: Drs. Suzanne Jones and Lora Burnett. The move comes after both worked their last day at Collin College on May 14.

A nonprofit association of faculty and academic professionals, the AAUP alleges that both dismissals were made without due process.

“Taken together, actions by the Collin College administration suggest a pattern of indifference toward academic freedom and norms of shared governance,” the AAUP wrote in a statement.

Collin College did not return the Observer’s request for comment.

Jones’ dismissal was tied to her criticism of the school’s COVID-19 policies, which the AAUP states was in “evident violation of her academic freedom.” She’s also a founding member of a local chapter of the Texas Faculty Association, a non-collective bargaining union that has similarly condemned the school’s actions.

Burnett’s termination hinged on her public critique of the school and her social media posts, including a tweet in which she made fun of former Vice President Mike Pence. After the investigation's completion, the AAUP will publish a report on its findings. 

In a tweet on Tuesday, Burnett wrote that the AAUP’s decision to scrutinize Collin College is remarkable: The organization only pursues two or three investigations for academic freedom violations per year. Such an investigation could soil potential business partnerships for the school, she continued.

“Fortune 500 companies aren’t going to embrace the racism, sexism, and anti-semitism of @collincollege president H. Neil Matkin, who is a walking, wheezing embarrassment to the institution,” Burnett said in a tweet, possibly referring to a damning piece published last month in The Chronicle of Higher Education. “Every corporate partner needs to be apprised of @AAUP investigation/findings.”

This isn’t the only conflict the school is contending with.

On Monday, board of trustees member Stacey Donald announced that the board’s chair, Bob Collins, had refused to place two items on the agenda for the May 25 meeting. Donald and another trustee had proposed items regarding the reinstatement of two Collin College professors and the creation of an administrator of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Another professor, Dr. Michael Phillips, tweeted that Collins’ refusal “explicitly violates college policy,” which dictates that the board chair “shall not refuse to assign a topic requested by two Board members to an agenda.”

In its Tuesday announcement, the AAUP wrote it’s also investigating Linfield University in Oregon. That school terminated a tenured professor who had criticized its handling of sexual misconduct allegations and accused the university’s president of making anti-Semitic comments. The New York Times published an article on the scandal earlier this month.

First Amendment lawyer Adam Steinbaugh wrote in a tweet that the AAUP’s investigation could come back to haunt both schools.

“Bad news for @collincollege and @LinfieldUniv,” he said. “This isn’t a momentary smudge for their reputations — this is going to go on for years.”

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