The second of three lawsuits against Collin College was resolved last week as the Eastern District Federal Court in Sherman approved a settlement between a former professor and the school.
Suzanne Jones was fired in January 2021 by Collin College, which cited three reasons for her removal: signing an open letter supporting the removal of Confederate monuments in Dallas, using Collin College’s name on a Texas Faculty Association website and helping to organize a branch of the union on campus and supporting the Collin College Faculty Council’s plan to reopen amidst the pandemic.
The lawsuit also named Collin College President Neil Matkin and now-retired Collin College Vice President Toni Jenkins, who joined Matkin in electing not to renew Jones’ contract, according to the lawsuit.
Jones sued the college in September 2021 and the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) began representing her in February 2022. In August, the court ruled that both Matkin and Jenkins could be held personally and financially liable for Jones’ dismissal.
The result of the lawsuit was a settlement between Jones and Collin College, Matkin and Jenkins where Jones will receive a two-year contract worth $115,000 annually for a total of $230,000 and $145,000 in attorney fees. Part of the settlement also included a provision to not hold any of the defendants liable.
Additionally, Jones’ contract will not be renewed after its expiration date of Feb. 1, 2025 but terms of the settlement include Collin College Senior Vice President of Campus Operations Abe Johnson writing a letter of recommendation for Jones and Matkin or his designee providing outplacement assistance for full-time positions at other institutions if they are available.
“This is a huge victory — not only for Suzanne, but for every single professor around the country who hesitates to speak up because an administrator wants to silence them,” said Greg Greubel, who represented Jones in the case. “FIRE is proud to defend people of all political views who are punished simply for speaking their minds.”
After Jones filed her suit, Collin College attempted to file a motion for summary judgment claiming “qualified immunity.” However, the court called the defendants’ arguments “dead on arrival” and said their actions were “clearly unconstitutional.”
Collin College confirmed that Jones will return to teaching albeit in a fully online capacity per the terms of the settlement. For the duration of the contract, Jones will teach through iCollin, said Marisela Cadena-Smith, associate vice president of communications.
“Collin College is committed to its vision of creating a brighter future for its students and communities,” Cadena-Smith said. “Jones has always thought highly of the college and knows it does amazing work in the county. She is very happy to return and be part of its culture of excellence.”
Jones’ dismissal came after nearly two decades as an education professor at Collin College. According to the lawsuit, she had received positive feedback on staff assessments.
“Collin College recognizes that Jones is a great teacher and during her time at the college demonstrated good performance through high evaluations and was respected by her students and many of her colleagues,” Cadena-Smith said. “Jones is excited about her return to the classroom and is grateful to the administration for the opportunity to teach bright minds at the college.”
Jones’ settlement is the second of three lawsuits against Collin College to reach its conclusion. There is still ongoing litigation by former history professor Michael Phillips.
Phillips’ case also had a motion for summary judgment denied by the court in September which will allow his lawsuit to proceed.