Collin College evicted a third professor for questionable reasons – the latest in a string of layoffs that faculty members say are evidence of a hostile work environment.
H. Neil Matkin, president of the Texas Community College District, made a name for himself act hard with faculty members who criticize the administration. He also stood in front of one Firestorm of indignation after minimizing a professor's Covid-19 death.
History professor Lora D. Burnett may have been Matkins most outspoken critic. She lost her job on Thursday.
Burnett on Twitter complained that she was apparently fired for "mean tweets". She posted screenshots of a letter from the college's human resources department informing her that her contract expires on May 14 and will not be renewed.
In the letter, College criticized Burnett for conduct, including "insubordination, posting personnel issues that affect the operations of the college, and personally criticizing employees, supervisors and / or those who merely disagree".
But the college, located in a conservative suburb of Dallas, was faulty from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a freedom of expression advocacy group, for treating Burnett – especially when she didn't stand up for her professor after a controversial statement on social media.
In an October tweet, Burnett derided then-Vice-President Mike Pence's debating performance, urging the host to "talk about Mike Pence until he closes his demon little mouth."
The tweet drew conservative anger and pointing to college, but professors across the country are saying controversial things the whole time. The typical reaction of public colleges and universities like Collin is to emphasize the freedom of speech of their employees under the First Amendment.
Matkin took a different approach and criticized Burnett in a friendly email. Although he did not identify Burnett by name, he accused an unnamed faculty member of attacking Mike Pence by "making hateful, hateful and rash Twitter posts". Burnett has too criticized Collin written in pieces for The Chronicle Review.
On Thursday after she lost her job, Burnett tweeted:
I mean, you know I can be the worst on Twitter. But here's the wonderful thing: citizens cannot be punished by the government for protected language, even if the government happens to be our employer.
Can you try For sure.
Can you get away with it? Well we'll see.
– Dr. Lora Burnett (@LDBurnett) February 25, 2021
Neither Burnett nor the college could be immediately reached for comment on Thursday night.
In the past few weeks, two other faculty members at Collin College, Audra Heaslip and Suzanne Jones, have also lost their jobs despite doing excellent teaching there.
Both professors were organizers of the college chapter of the Texas Faculty Association, which acts like a union but is not recognized for collective bargaining under Texas law.
Heaslip had previously written a review of the college's Covid-19 reopening plan. More than 100 other faculty members have signed up in support of the safety concerns identified by Heaslip.
(tagsToTranslate) Mike Pence (t) Collin College (t) Texas (t) Twitter (t) Suzanne Jones (t) Lora D. Burnett (t) Audra Heaslip (t) Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (t) Dallas ( t) t) Texas Faculty Association