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Education

Collin College Faculty Dismissals Trigger Review By National Professors Organization

Glass front entrance of Collin Community College Wiley campus
Collin.edu
A national organization is investigating Collin College for possibly violating the free speech rights of some professors.

The American Association of University Professors is looking into allegations that Collin College professors were dismissed for speaking up about COVID safety issues, among other comments.

A national professors organization is looking into Collin College to see if the school violated the free speech rights of professors who say they were dismissed after criticizing the administration.

The American Association of University Professors or AAUP is a national non-profit organization of professors and academics that advocate for racial justice and equity in colleges and universities.

“Our standards of academic freedom hold that faculty members should be free to participate in shared governance and comment on institutional policy without censorship or discipline, and should also be able to affiliate with whomever they like," said Mark Criley, senior program officer for AAUP.

The organization gets about 1,000 complaints a year from professors who say their rights are beingdenied by employers, and only a handful get full-fledged reviews, Criley said.

Criley says his organization is investigating allegations from professors who saidthey couldn’t exercise free speech without risking their jobs at Collin College.

“When faculty members are adversely affected by their institutions for speech when it doesn’t bear on professional fitness for their position, then that’s an issue of deep concern for our association,”Criley said.

Collin College told KERA that the school offers no right to employment after contracts end.

"The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) is a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy organization with no responsibility for personnel matters at Collin College," the statement said.

"The college continues to effectively manage its annual contract renewal process in faithful accordance with the policies adopted by its locally-elected Board of Trustees. Since Collin College does not offer tenure, the college notes that none of the professors referenced by AAUP hold any tenure position at the college."

Earlier this year, four female professors say they were fired by Collin College. Three of them said it’s because they publicly complained the school was reopening too soon for in-person learning during the pandemic. Two of those also worked to help create a union.

In addition, history professor Lora Burnett said she was fired by Collin College after posting a tweet last fall criticizing former Vice President Mike Pence. Burnett notes she was not working when she tweeted that night.

“If professors aren’t able to speak freely outside the classroom or teach freely inside the classroom, that raises real concerns about the quality of education students receive," Burnett said. "Because the defense of academic freedom is the defense of the quality of education that professors are able to offer students.”

The AAUP investigation could last through the summer.

Got a tip? Email Reporter Bill Zeeble at bzeeble@kera.org. You can follow him on Twitter @bzeeble.

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