GALVESTON (CN) – A community college stripped employees of their rights when it replaced its tenure policy with an “at will” arrangement that lets it fire professors for any reason, a professor and union leader says. Prof. David Smith says the College of the Mainland violated his First Amendment rights when trustees prohibited him from speaking about the policy changes during a public meeting.
College of the Mainland is a community college in Texas City. Under the school’s old policy, administrators had to have a good reason to fire a professor, and give 6 months notice, according to background documents Smith included in his complaint. Smith is a professor of political science.
The new rules say professors can be fired for any reason with 2 months notice, including budget cuts. They also give the school president the right to strip professors of tenure.
Smith says that college officials claim the changes are necessary to prevent unionized professors from wasting taxpayers’ money.
In an opinion column sent to a local newspaper, the school’s director of marketing wrote, “The employee-union leadership at COM has, in recent years, interfered with attempts to discipline underperforming employees by encouraging those employees to file grievances against supervisors, causing the college to spend hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars unnecessarily.”
But Smith says the tenure system provides employment security to attract and retain high-quality professors, and without it the school’s efforts to recruit faculty will be undermined.
Smith says he tried to bring up his concerns during the public comments section of the board’s June 22 meeting, and its chairman wouldn’t let him speak.
Smith wants an injunction stating the board’s move to silence his dissent is a violation of his free speech rights. He is represented by Anthony Griffin of Galveston.