Featured Case

University of Washington: Professor Punished for Expressing Dissenting Opinion

Jessica Cruz, Twinkle Don’t Blink
Stuart Reges is an award-winning professor at the University of Washington in the Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering. Administrators punished Professor Reges after he challenged the University’s position on Native American land ownership. The Allen School encourages professors to include on their syllabi a statement recognizing that the land on which the university sits was once owned by indigenous tribes. Professor Reges disagreed with the University’s “Indigenous Land Acknowledgement Statement” — instead, he challenged his students and fellow faculty to consider the utility and performative nature of land acknowledgments by including a modified statement on his syllabus. Read more.

 

Collin Community College District: History Professor Fired for Talking About History, Criticizing the College’s COVID-19 Response

Eli Mabli Photography
Michael Phillips is an award-winning history professor at Collin College in McKinney, Texas. As an expert on the history of race relations, Phillips spoke out in the media advocating for removing Confederate monuments in Dallas. Two years later, he granted a media interview about a racially motivated shooting in El Paso by a former Collin College student. Collin College administrators disciplined Phillips because his comments to the press made the College “look bad” and violated a directive by the president forbidding faculty from speaking about the shooting. Read more.


Collin Community College District: Professor Unconstitutionally Fired for Unionizing, Criticizing the College’s COVID-19 Response

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. Read more.


Tarleton State University: Texas University Covers Up Professor’s ‘Highly Inappropriate’ Behavior by Censoring Student Newspaper and Unlawfully Withholding Public Records

This public university in Texas, one of America’s 10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech—paid a professor to leave after he was accused of booking a hotel room for himself and a female student without her knowledge during travel, and inviting another student to his home for a movie, dinner, and drinks while his wife was away. Three years later, after the professor threatened to sue the student newspaper Texan News Service for reporting the story, Tarleton gave the student editors a choice: lose the articles or lose the paper’s funding. Tarleton then seized editorial control from the students and now falsely claims—contrary to the paper’s policy handbook and history—that Texan News Service was never independent. Read more.


Marshall University: Microbiology Professor Fired for Hyperbolic Classroom Speech About COVID-19 and Trump Supporters

Jennifer Mosher is a tenured microbiology professor at Marshall University in Huntington, WV. On September 15, 2020, as students were logging on to her virtual lecture, one student made an offhand remark about “thinning the gene pool,” referring to individuals who were not following public health requirements on masking. Mosher agreed, joking that she hoped “certain groups of people holding rallies” — presumably referencing President Trump’s campaign rallies — “all die before the election.” Later, after showing a video about pandemic readiness in her Biology of COVID-19 lecture, Mosher made similar comments. She taught both classes, and lectured the next day, without any incident. Read more.


University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center: Student Investigated and Punished for Social Media Posts

The University of Tennessee twice investigated grad student Kim Diei after an anonymous complaint about her sex-positive social media content. With FIRE, she's standing up for her rights.VIA Productions and Breezy Lucia / FIRE
Kimberly Diei has twice been investigated by her program’s Professional Conduct Committee because of allegations that her personal social media activity was too “crude,” “vulgar,” and “sexual.” Read more.


Recently Resolved Cases

 

Collin Community College District: History Professor Fired for Criticizing Mike Pence and Her College’s COVID-19 Response Online

Lora Burnett
Lora Burnett was a full-time history professor at Collin College. Like many Americans, Burnett shared her thoughts about important public issues, such as the 2020 presidential election and the COVID-19 pandemic on Twitter. During the October 2020 vice presidential debate, Burnett tweeted: “The moderator needs to talk over Mike Pence until he shuts his little demon mouth up.” Burnett also criticized Collin College’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. She publicly challenged Collin College President H. Neil Matkin’s assessment that the pandemic was “blown utterly out of proportion.” She also informed the public about the death of a former Collin College professor by tweeting, “Another @collincollege professor has died of COVID.” In private text exchanges with Texas State Rep. Jeff Leach, who was apparently upset about Burnett’s tweets concerning the debate, President Matkin promised to “deal with it” and later terminated Burnett. Read more.


Eastern Virginia Medical School: Medical Student Unconstitutionally Prohibited from Starting Student Club Promoting Healthcare Reform

Photography by Marcela / FIRE
Edward Si, a medical student at Eastern Virginia Medical School, applied to form a chapter of Students for a National Health Program, a national student organization dedicated to advocating for a single-payer health system, in December 2020. EVMS’s Student Government Association denied the application because it did “not want to create clubs based on opinions, political or otherwise, and the mission and goals of [SNaHP] do not describe what we believe to be necessary or sustainable for a club.” Read more.


LAWSUIT: Student reporter sues university president for forbidding journalism

Student editor Jared Nally is suing his university after its president issued a directive that banned him from engaging in basic acts of journalism. (Gary Rohman / FIRE)Gary Rohman / FIRE
Following Student Press Freedom Day, FIRE filed a lawsuit on behalf of student newspaper and editor-in-chief against Haskell Indian Nations University and its president who issued “directive” forbidding routine newsgathering. Read more.