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More Alleged Violations of Faculty Speech Rights at Collin

February 1, 2022

Another professor at Collin College in Texas is accusing the institution of effectively firing him for protected speech. Michael Phillips, who has taught history at Collin for 14 years, says his contract was not renewed for next year because he’s advocated publicly for the removal of Confederate monuments in Dallas, criticized on social media a Collin policy restricting faculty speech about classroom masking and encouraged students in his own classes to wear masks despite a state law against mask mandates.

“The institution’s senior vice president proposed that I could make a ‘graceful exit’ from the college by working with the administration to ‘construct a narrative’ around my departure,” Phillips said Monday in a lengthy Twitter thread revealing his contract nonrenewal. “He suggested that perhaps I could say I was leaving voluntarily. He further said that, with such cooperation, the college could help me in my search for a new position. I declined the offer.”

Collin doesn’t have a tenure system and professors serve on annual contracts, but Phillips said that he was in excellent standing at the institution and expected reappointment—apart from several meetings with administrators about his public comments and stance on classroom masking. Several other former Collin professors have accused the college of effectively firing them after they criticized the college’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic or being outspoken on political issues. One such former professor, Lora Burnett, announced last week that Collin settled with her for $70,000, plus attorney’s fees, in her First Amendment case against the institution. Collin did not admit liability in its agreement with Burnett. A spokesperson for the college did not immediately comment on Phillips’s allegations.

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Colleen Flaherty

Colleen Flaherty, Reporter, covers faculty issues for Inside Higher Ed. Prior to joining the publication in 2012, Colleen was military editor at the Killeen Daily Herald, outside Fort Hood, Texas. Before that, she covered government and land use issues for the Greenwich Time and Hersam Acorn Newspapers in her home state of Connecticut. After graduating from McGill University in Montreal in 2005 with a degree in English literature, Colleen taught English and English as a second language in public schools in the Bronx, N.Y. She earned her M.S.Ed. from City University of New York Lehman College in 2008 as part of the New York City Teaching Fellows program. 

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