The Chronicle of Higher Education
October 31st, 2014
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.