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Dismissed professor alleging retaliation loses case against Collin College

Collin College is a public community college in Dallas.
Emily Nava
Collin College is a public community college in Dallas.

A jury this week sided with Collin College in a lawsuit brought by a former professorwho said the school violated his civil rights.

History professor Michael Phillips’ lawsuit, filed more than a year ago, followed Collin College’s failure to renew his annual contract that ended in May of 2022. Phillips said he was fired, in part, because of the school’s dislike of his left-leaning politics.

He’d been quoted in news stories that local Civil War monuments should be removed. Collin College chastised him for identifying himself as a history professor there, alleging people might interpret his views as being the school’s official view.

Phillips also publicly criticized the school’s approach to COVID-19, saying the school wasn’t cautious enough as the potentially deadly disease spread. A Collin College instructor died of COVID-19.

When the school didn’t renew his contract, Phillips sued, alleging retaliation and an unconstitutional denial of his academic and free speech rights.

Collin College denied all accusations. It said repeatedly before and during the trial that “there is no right or reasonable expectation of continued employment beyond the term of the contract.”

After last week’s trial, a jury agreed with the school. In a statement, Collin College said that despite “repeated attacks by the plaintiff, his supporters, and various advocacy groups with their own agendas, this case resulted in a legal victory, including affirmation that the college’s policies are not unconstitutionally vague as alleged.”

Phillips offered no comment.

His attorney, Greg Greubel, with the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, (FIRE) expressed deep disappointment with the trial’s outcome and “incredible pride” representing Phillips.

“FIRE will continue to fight for the expressive rights of faculty across the country” the organization said in a statement. “FIRE stands ready and willing to take a case to trial in defense of First Amendment rights.”

Phillips is the third instructor to sue Collin College in recent years after their contracts weren’t renewed. The two others settled out of court.

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