Professor fired for challenging science behind COVID mandates can sue university, judge rules

Sep 7, 2023 | Political News

Atenured professor fired less than a month after seeking the scientific evidence behind her public university's COVID-19 policies and challenging the legality of its vaccine mandate will get to continue her First Amendment retaliation lawsuit against the University of Maine System.

Patricia Griffin has sufficiently alleged “the subject matter of her speech pertained to a matter of great public concern and was outside the scope of her duties as a professor of marketing” at the University of Southern Maine, U.S. District Judge Jon Levy ruled last month, clearing the way for trial on that issue while dismissing Griffin's other claims.

Levy, nominated to the bench by President Barack Obama, reached the opposite conclusion about what qualifies as protected faculty speech from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the dismissal of a similar lawsuit against North Carolina State University in July. Levy answers to the 1st Circuit, which has jurisdiction over Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression warned that the 4th Circuit, with jurisdiction over Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia, had blessed the weaponization of “collegiality” and encouraged universities to “punish faculty who are critical of university governance, amplifying an already-pervasive problem.”