Collin College: Faculty Member Issued Warnings Over Tweets About Vice President Pence, Deceased Professor

Category: Free Speech
Schools: Collin College

During the 2020 vice presidential debate, Collin College professor Lora Burnett tweeted that Vice President Michael Pence needed to shut “his little demon mouth up.” After conservative media outlets republished the tweet, state legislators and members of the public demanded Burnett’s termination, and Collin President Neil Matkin said the college’s “execution of its personnel policies” would not be public. The following day, Burnett was issued a written warning against “personal” use of email. On October 15, FIRE wrote to the college, noting that its technology policies authorize “incidental” personal use of email and that Burnett’s extramural speech was protected by the First Amendment. Collin College refused to affirm that Burnett’s speech was protected and suggested it would refuse to renew Burnett’s contract. After FIRE obtained text messages between Matkin and Rep. Jeff Leach in which Leach asked if Burnett was “paid with taxpayer dollars,” Leach tweeted an image of a ticking clock at Burnett. Nine days later, Collin College informed Burnett that her contract was not being renewed.