Collin College in Texas will pay former history professor Lora Burnett $70,000 plus attorney’s fees to end Burnett’s First Amendment–based lawsuit against the institution, Burnett and her lawyers at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education announced Tuesday. Collin did not admit liability in the case, but the legal agreement, filed in federal court in Texas, refers to the deal as a “judgment against” Collin. Burnett is among several former faculty members who say Collin effectively fired them after they criticized the college’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 or were otherwise outspoken.
Burnett also criticized then U.S. vice president Mike Pence on Twitter that year, referring to his “demon mouth” and “bleeding” eye. The comments about Pence caught the attention of a Republican state lawmaker, who texted Collin’s president about them and later tweeted an image of a ticking clock and called Burnett’s nonrenewal a “big win.” Collin doesn’t have a tenure system.
Burnett said in a statement, “I hope I am the last professor that Collin College fires for exercising her First Amendment rights, but if history is any indication, no one who has an opinion is safe from Collin College leaders’ thin skin. We should all be protective of the rights granted by the Constitution—and stand up to defend them when they’re violated.”