There is a war in Texas over academic freedom and Collin College has become one of its primary battlefields. Its weapon of choice? Censorship of free speech.
As Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick pledges to end critical race theory teachings and faculty tenure at state public universities, history professor Michael Philips sues Collin College alleging retaliation for exercising his First Amendment rights to free speech.
Philip is the third professor to sue Collin College.
“This is a nightmarish vision of what higher education might become in Texas in coming years unless this assault on free speech is stopped,” Phillips said.
On Tuesday, Philip filed his lawsuit in federal court, saying he was fired because he spoke publicly about politically contentious issues like the school’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the removal of Confederate statues in Dallas, as reported by The Texas Tribune.
Even though censorship at colleges and universities is all too common, the situation at Collin College is unique.
“This is the first time FIRE has represented multiple professors against a single college and its president at the same time, and we look forward to proving that Collin College’s actions are egregiously unconstitutional in court,” said Greg Greubel, a lawyer for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which is representing Phillips.
FIRE also represented two other former professors who have sued Collin.
Former history professor Lora Burnett and Education professor Suzanne Jones were both fired for exerting personal opinions and are both suing Collin College.
Burnett claims she was fired for a public statement about former Vice President Mike Pence, alleging the school decided not to renew her contract for “insubordination, making private personnel issues public that impair the college’s operations.”
Jones, alleged she was fired for publicly criticizing the school’s handling of the pandemic and her work to start a local campus chapter of the Texas Faculty Association.
Apart from reinstatement, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees, Philips wants the college to terminate their policy that faculty can’t speak to the press on public issues, and wishes the court orders Collin to institute protections for faculty members against this type of incident.
Phillips also hopes to win this lawsuit to set a “pro-free speech precedent for colleges and universities” and disrupt what he describes as a “trend toward censorship on a number of topics: public health, but also racial justice, gender studies,” as reported by The Texas Tribune.