A federal appeals court has ruled that the First Amendment protected an adjunct instructor’s public complaints about how her employer, an Illinois community college, deals with people in her position.
In a decision handed down on Thursday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit unanimously held that the First Amendment precluded Moraine Valley Community College from firing Robin Meade, a part-time business instructor and adjunct-union head, for telling an international organization that her college mistreats adjuncts in ways that hurt students’ education.
The sort of retaliation alleged in Ms. Meade’s lawsuit is a common fear among adjunct instructors, who lack tenure and, at most colleges, can be removed simply by being denied work in the future. Such retaliation appears especially likely to be directed at adjunct instructors with union-leadership positions, which put them at odds with administrators. At the time of her dismissal, in August 2013, Ms. Meade had been president of the Moraine Valley Adjunct Faculty Organization, a union affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers.
Ms. Meade’s lawsuit asserted that she had run afoul of her institution’s administration after it asked her to write a letter to the League for Innovation in the Community College in support of the college’s reapplication for membership on the organization’s board. But instead of writing the sort of complimentary letter requested, she sent a letter to the league saying she could not support her college’s bid for renewed board membership.<Read more.>