Jones v. Collin College: Professor Unconstitutionally Fired for Unionizing, Criticizing the College’s COVID-19 Response
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Jones v. Collin College – Complaint
Suzanne Jones worked as professor of education for twenty years at Collin College before the College terminated her for unionizing faculty and criticizing the College’s plan to return to in-person teaching in the Fall of 2020. Jones helped author a resolution summarizing faculty concerns with returning to teach in-person during the COVID–19 pandemic in June 2020, and suggesting alternatives to in-person teaching. In response, the College’s president H. Neil Matkin ridiculed the resolution by claiming that it contained false information.
In September 2020, Jones attempted to form a Collin College chapter of the Texas Faculty Association (TFA), a statewide faculty union. Collin College administrators refused to permit Jones to announce the formation of the TFA chapter at a faculty meeting, required her to remove the name of Collin College from the TFA website, and canceled a TFA panel previously scheduled during a professional development conference. On the same day TFA held its first recruitment meeting at Collin College, the school told Jones they would not be renewing her teaching contract.
Public institutions like Collin College are bound by the First Amendment, and it is unconstitutional to retaliate against a professor for exercising their freedom of association and freedom of speech.
On September 21, 2021, Jones sued Collin College and the administrators responsible for her nonrenewal, challenging the unconstitutional retaliation for the exercise of her First Amendment rights. On February 14, 2022, FIRE began representing Jones. In bringing this lawsuit, Jones seeks to hold Collin College leaders accountable for violating her clearly established constitutional rights — and to make sure public college professors have the right to associate with unions, and to criticize their institutions of higher education. In August, the court denied a motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity and ruled that Collin College administrators could be held personally and financially responsible for their actions. The court called the defendants' argument "dead on arrival" and said their actions were "clearly unconstitutional."
On November 3, 2022, Jones entered into a settlement agreement with Collin College, reinstating her as a professor for two years at a significantly higher salary than she earned before her termination. The settlement represents an enormous victory for Jones and for all faculty at Collin College who wish to advocate for union organization and speak out on public issues.