by Bob Buzzanco
Matkin’s Offensive against the First Amendment gets worse!
Just a few weeks ago, I wrote, and the Green and Red Pod
cast interviewed, two professors from Collin College who had just been fired–Suzanne Jones and Audra Heaslip. See, “Professors Fired for Covid Concerns.” and Podcast interview, at “Professors Fired from Collin College. Retaliation in Texas.”
As we’ve seen with right-wing Texans, when they’re
caught doing something despicable (as in their handling of COVID and the recent power grid failure), they double down.
And so it is with Collin College, as President Neil Matkin, a right-wing ideologue himself who fired Jones and Heaslip simply for questioning the schools COVID reopening policies and being active members of the Texas Faculty Association Union (and he wasn’t cryptic about it, making it clear publicly that the reason for their termination was clearly retaliatory) has now fired another professor, Lora Burnett.
As I wrote a few weeks ago, in the context of the Jones and Heaslip firings: “To muddy the whole episode up a bit more, another professor at Collin, Lora Burnett, has been put on notice that her job is in jeopardy because, during the Vice-Presidential debates she put out a tweet basically calling Mike Pence demonic. She received the now-to-be-expected online attacks and threats, and the school essentially joined in, condemning her words and not defending her right to have her own opinions. Burnett’s Tweet, Matkin said, was “hateful, vile, and ill-considered.” Like unionization, free speech is in Collin College’s crosshairs too.”
To add a bit more background, Burnett was clearly on notice but she, like the others had the support of FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which filed a Texas Open Records Request with Collin College to get access to communication between Matkin and other Collin administrators and local Republican elected officials who were pressing Matkin to fire Burnett. Though Collin refused, th
e Texas Attorney General’s Office said Collin must release records of correspondence between Matkin and legislators.
Burnett is convinced, with good reason, that a GOP representative from Plano, Jeff Leach, was the principal force behind getting her fired. Leach, to be kind, isn’t the brightest bulb and publicly celebrated what he thought was Burnett’s firing on twitter……last week, writing “
“The fact that you are no longer paid and your maniacal, obscene r
hetoric no longer supported with Collin County taxpayer dollars is a win! A BIG WIN!”
Burnett then pointed out that she was still employed, to which Leach responded with a gif of a ticking clock
After Burnett informed Leach that she’s still employed, he responded with a gif of a ticking clock.
Even though Leach had outed himself as a conspirator with Matkin to fire a professor because of her tweets–a First Amendment exercise of free speech–Matkin hasn’t backed now and has now fired Burnet.
This situation isn’t just critical to three professors who have lost their jobs–meaning they’ve lost their paychecks and insurance–but to all of us, whether in education or not.
A situation as outrageous as this really deserves a national show of support to the 3 women who have been fired, whether they’re well-known academics from the East Coast or “just” professors at a community college outside Dallas.
If these attacks on higher education, free speech, and unions continue, then we’re all at risk and any one of us could be next.
Please share this story and do what you can to help.
To start, you can send a message to the Collin College Board of Trustees, click here
Or you can email them individually….