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Professor Alleges Collin College President Attempted To Intimidate Over Free Speech

"This was an effort to intimidate me," wrote a professor at Loyola University Chicago
Collin College, a school mired in scandal from 2020 to 2021.

As Local Profile previously reported, former Collin College professors have claimed the institution stifled free speech. Now, according to the Dallas Observer, a professor in Chicago is claiming Collin College tried to intimidate him and limit his speech – even though he doesn't work for the college and is several states away. 

Benjamin H. Johnson, professor at Loyola University Chicago, organized a petition for Texas historians that called on the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accreditation body to, as Johnson explained on Twitter, "investigate whether Collin College is in violation of accreditation standards regarding academic freedom."  

The petition was for Professor Michael Phillips, who, according to Inside Higher Ed, alleged Collin College didn't renew his contract over free speech. 

"Last week I received an email from my dean (politely and gently put), requesting a meeting about 'a letter that you sent to SACS,'" Johnson wrote.

Collin College's president, Neil Matkin, contacted Loyola's president, JoAnn Rooney, to ask if he was speaking for the university.

"Of course I wasn't, and he knew that; this was an effort to intimidate me and possibly to enlist Loyola in his efforts to squelch freedom of assembly and academic freedom, not just [at] Collin College but beyond," wrote Johnson. 

In his letter, which Collin College shared with Local Profile, District President Neil Matkin wrote that he did not take issue with an online petition supporting a non-renewed professor. But the district president did take issue with Professor Johnson using Loyola University Chicago letterhead in his letter to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accreditation body and that the letter lacked a disclaimer that professor wasn't speaking on behalf of the department.

According to Johnson, there’s no reason why a letter from a faculty member on university letterhead should be taken as a statement of the institution’s stance. "We write correspondence related to professional activities on letterhead all of the time – letters of recommendation, evaluations of scholarship, correspondence with students," Professor Johnson told Local Profile. "Like advocating for the maintenance of professional standards (which is at stake in the petition), that is part of our duties. I organized this petition neither as a lay person nor as a representative of Loyola or any other institution, but rather as a professor with deep commitments to Texas history and academic freedom."

"If Matkin can convince my institution I acted in its name without basis, I would be subject to sanction," Professor Johnson continued. "He wants to squelch criticism of Collin College. He must fear an investigation by SACS, as requested in the petition."

In his letter to Loyola University Chicago, District President Matkin wrote that he welcomed any inquiry.