Collin College

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) announced Tuesday that Collin College is one of two schools under investigation for what activists are alleging to be the unfair dismissal of professors who criticized the administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

If the AAUP finds that Collin College violated its “generally recognized principles of academic freedom and tenure,” the McKinney-based community college district could be censured, a move which could potentially affect its accreditation.

“This is a very rare investigation,” explained Michael Phillips, a history professor at Collin College who has been one of the school’s most vocal critics in the wake of its “free speech” controversy. “If the AAUP votes to sanction the college, which it could ... that would indicate that the college had violated section six of the accreditation standards from the body that accredits it.”

This accrediting body is the Georgia-based Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), which accredits over 13,000 institutions in the southwestern United States.

Section six of SACS’s “Principles of Accreditation” guidelines states, “Achievement of the institution’s mission with respect to teaching, research, and service requires a critical mass of full-time qualified faculty to provide direction and oversight of the academic programs. Due to this significant role, it is imperative that an effective system of evaluation be in place for all faculty members that takes into account the institution’s obligations to foster intellectual freedom of faculty to teach, serve, research and publish.”

“That relates directly to what the AAUP is investigating,” Phillips said. “You can’t have ‘a critical mass of full-time qualified faculty to provide direction and oversight’ if they get fired when they ask the college to reconsider a policy, like the re-opening policy, which is exactly what happened.”

This was stated in reference to humanities professor Audra Heaslip and education professor Suzanne Jones, who both alleged that the administration decided not to renew their contracts due to their critiques of the school’s COVID-19 policies. Two other faculty members, history professor Lora Burnett and English professor Barbara Hanson, also accused Collin College administrators of unfairly terminating their employment “with no due process.”

Collin College did not provide comment when asked about the investigation.

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