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Former professor wins back job and money in victory over Collin College

IMG_8561.JPG Smiling woman wearing black top, who has long dark hair. Mostly a head shot.
Suzanne Jones
Suzanne Jones taught education at Collin College. Then, after 20 years, she was let go after her contract ended. She sued for first amendment violations and was just reinstated as an instructor. The settlement also includes $375,000 for her and her attorneys.

Suzanne Jones was one of four Collin College professors fired for what the school said were violations of internal and public policies tied to the college's COVID-19 re-opening, involvement with a campus faculty organization and signing an open letter demanding the removal of Confederate monuments.

As part of a new settlement, Education Professor Suzanne Jones will be reinstated at Collin College where she'll teach virtually through February of 2025. She'll also get $230,000, and her attorneys will receive $145,000.

“This is a huge victory," said attorney Greg H. Greubel, who represented her for FIRE, The Foundation For Individual Rights and Expression.

Greubel said the victory was "not only for Suzanne, but for every single professor around the country who hesitates to speak up because an administrator wants to silence them. 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.”

Greubel also called it a victory for Jones' students, who get to benefit from her expertise and 20 years of experience in class.

In a statement, Collin College called Jones
"a great teacher and during her time at the college demonstrated good performance through high evaluations and was respected by her students and many of her colleagues. Dr. Jones is excited about her return to the classroom and is grateful to the administration for the opportunity to teach bright minds at the college.”

Just before Collin College told Jones her contract would not be renewed, she was organizing a meeting of the school's chapter of the Texas Faculty Association. That group's president, Pat Heintzelman, and the Texas State Teachers Association president, Ovidia Molina, wrote of this settlement "Jones never should have lost that position in the first place. But an anti-union college administration that apparently didn’t believe the First Amendment applied to educators fired her in 2021 for exercising her freedom of speech rights.

We hope her reinstatement serves as a reminder that college professors have the same rights to free speech and association as other Americans do."

There's yet another lawsuit still outstanding over the same issues. Former Collin College history professor and award-winning author Michael Phillips also had a contract that wasn't renewed early this year. Now a Senior Fellow at Southern Methodist University, Phillips said Collin College tried getting Jones' case dismissed earlier this year and failed.

"It wasn't even close," Phillips said. "The judge was very critical of the college's legal arguments."

Of the settlement, he said, "I think they clearly raised the white flag. They realized they were trying to defend the indefensible."

Phillips' case has a ways to go yet. FIRE attorney Greubel, who also represents Phillips, says he believes Phillips' case is as strong as the Jones case.

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

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you.

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.