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Politics

Collin College First Amendment Fight Moves To The Ballot Box With Spring Board Election

Glass front entrance of building on Collin College's Spring Creek campus with sidewalk sign asking people to wear a face mask.
Keren Carrión
/
KERA News
Five of six Collin College board candidates and moderator joined this week's election forum on zoom. The sixth participant participated by phone.

The incumbents in the races for the Collin College Board of Trustees back school president Neil Matkin, who is facing a backlash for terminating several professors.

In Collin County, pandemic policies have energized a political contest that seldom gets a lot of attention.

Three of the nine seats on the Collin College board of trustees are up for grabs in the May 1 election.

The incumbents in those races back school president Neil Matkin, who is under fire for terminating several professors. The professors say it's because they publicly opposed reopening the school last fall, mid-pandemic, with in-person classes.

A forum Tuesday featured five candidates on Zoom.

Misty Irby is running to unseat board chair Bob Collins.

“When a professor feels that she can’t speak out against the policies when it comes to COVID-19 because of their fear or differences in beliefs from the president, then that’s a problem,” Irby said. “I believe professors and faculty across the board should have the ability to speak out and not let it be hidden.”

Close Up Of Hands Of Man In Medical Mask Showing I Voted Sticker.
Learn more about the Collin College Board of Trustees election. Plus, Plano voters will decide on a new mayor, three other city council members, three school board representatives and six bond referendum items.

Collins, the board's chair, took a different tack. He participated in the forum by phone.

“We do have free speech now. We honor free speech. That said, academic freedom — they’re really two different things,” Collins said. “Academic freedom means the professor has the freedom to say and teach whatever he wants to, according to the syllabus that’s published. I’ve been teaching for a long time. I understand completely what academic freedom is.”

In addition to the Collins–Irby race for place 8, incumbent Jim Orr faces Helen Chang in place 7, and a third incumbent, Andy Hardin, is up against Jacoby Stewart in place 9. Early voting continues through April 27.

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

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