A college did not renew a professor’s contract because she criticized Vice President Pence as well as her college’s pandemic response. FIRE has filed on her behalf.
During last October’s vice presidential debate, Burnett tweeted: “The moderator needs to talk over Mike Pence until he shuts his little demon mouth up.” The tweet was picked up by conservative media outlets highlighting faculty members’ reactions to the debate. The tweet outraged Texas State Rep. Jeff Leach, who texted Matkin to ask if Burnett was “paid with taxpayer dollars.” Matkin responded that Burnett was “[a]lready on my radar” and he would “deal with it.” [...] Meanwhile, the college spent $14,000 on legal fees seeking to conceal the text exchange between Matkin and Leach from the public. The college lost that battle. Leach tweeted on Feb. 16 that Burnett’s termination was a “BIG WIN” — before Burnett had even been fired. When he learned that his announcement was premature, he tweeted an image of a ticking clock to indicate that her time as a Collin College professor was running out. Nine days later, the college notified Burnett that her contract would not be renewed, citing “insubordination, making private personnel issues public that impair the college’s operations, and personal criticisms of co-workers, supervisors, and/or those who merely disagree with you.” “A professor expressing their political views on social media is not insubordination, it’s core protected speech,” said FIRE attorney Greg H. Greubel. “Colleges and universities are supposed to be a space for individuals to engage in fearless debate on controversial issues, not a place where criticizing your boss gets you fired. If professors like Lora Burnett cannot inform the public about their views on public issues and problems on campus, our democracy is weakened. This case shows that when colleges treat professors as disposable, academic freedom and faculty expressive rights become disposable, too.”
Please consider contributing to my legal fund for my free speech lawsuit against NC State.