Collin College Board Election Candidates Megan Wallace, Scott Coleman Want to Fix Free Speech Problem | Dallas Observer

Education

Trustee Candidates Hope To Turn Collin College Around from 'Epicenter of Censorship'

Collin College has previously been named one of the 10 worst colleges for free speech.
Collin College has previously been named one of the 10 worst colleges for free speech. Simone Carter
Collin College has undoubtedly served countless students as a stepping stone on their higher-education journey. Now critics are demanding change in the institution that’s made national headlines for being the “epicenter of censorship in Texas.”

The Collin College Board of Trustees election is coming up on Saturday, May 6; early voting started this week. Three trustee places are up for grabs, with challengers Scott Coleman and Megan Wallace vying for seats. (Incumbent trustee Stacey Donald is aiming to defend her Place 3 title against hopefuls Cathie Alexander and Joe Minissale.)

Wallace, Coleman and Donald each earned endorsements from the Collin Chapter of the Texas Faculty Association.

The Observer caught up with Wallace and Coleman ahead of the election to learn what’s at stake in the race.

Megan Wallace (Place 1)

Wallace has lived in Collin County for around 12 years. She and her family moved to business-friendly Texas to get their digital media company off the ground, which they eventually sold. Then ostensibly retired, she wanted to take on a new challenge.

“I decided I had always had an interest in the law,” Wallace said. “So, I went back to school this past year at Collin College to finish pre-reqs for entering the legal program. And I just fell in love with it.”

Wallace has been pleasantly surprised by her experience at Collin College, she said, and recognizing the institution’s “unlimited potential” inspired her to run against incumbent trustee Fred Moses.

The way Wallace sees it, a position on the board of trustees would be the perfect marriage of her student side and her financial background from managing business operations. Fellow students have told Wallace that their biggest concern is finances.

“I would really like to see us partner better for scholarship opportunities, internship opportunities with corporations that are nearby,” she said.

Wallace wants teachers at Collin College to feel supported by the board. She said she’s “been absolutely astounded” by the quality of instruction in her program and the way her teachers care for students. Her professors make the difference between a successful and unsuccessful student experience, she said.

Collin College affects the local economy more than most businesses and is important to property values and infrastructure, she added. Still, the school has witnessed shrinking enrollment from 2021 to 2022; the enrollment growth rate should keep up with the growth of the county, she said.

Wallace would like to help create a safe atmosphere for professors and staff to ask questions and provide feedback. She’d also like to see every college-bound student in the county graduating from high school with credit from Collin College, among other aims.

The fact that many of the faculty at Collin College don’t feel supported by the current board “was just unconscionable” to Wallace. She wants professors to be recognized and rewarded. It’s something he believes will help to retain the talent the school currently has and prevent further faculty turnover.

“I want to be a voice for the teachers,” Wallace said. “I want to be a voice for everybody, but I really, really believe that the teachers are the key to success at the school.”

Scott Coleman (Place 2)

Coleman is a native Texan who’s lived in Collin County for more than a decade. He previously served as a corporate lawyer and also started a real estate business before choosing to go into education.

When he was around 30 years old, Coleman decided to get a teacher certification and started teaching social studies. Eventually, he earned a master’s degree in educational leadership and moved into administrative work, now serving as an assistant principal in Garland.

He’s also been a candidate for the Texas Legislature, having run in 2016 against state Rep. Jeff Leach, a Plano Republican.

“My biggest part of the platform at that time was education,” Coleman said. “My whole career has kind of been defined by the defunding of public education in the state.”

Coleman, who will face off against trustee Jay Saad and fellow challenger Philip Timmons, wants the school to be accessible for every student. He hopes to ensure that it’s affordable, including with dual-credit courses. College can be cost-prohibitive for many families, and Coleman thinks the school should help to ease that financial burden.

He also cited the recent politicization of education.

“I’ve been going to all the ISDs in the region as part of my campaign, and you're hearing the same story everywhere, where it's like these constant attacks on teachers, saying teachers are indoctrinating students,” he said. “And the same thing is going on in Collin College, too, and the form it takes in Collin College is with those professors.”

Several professors have blasted Collin College with allegations that they were terminated in violation of their constitutional rights. Some have accused the administration of favoring conservative political views and of punishing professors who speak out.

Coleman said that has created a chilling effect on free speech at the school and that faculty members are afraid for their jobs. It comes during a critical time in education, when hyper-conservative candidates are running for school boards and pushing for book bans.

The back-to-back controversies have landed Collin College in court, something that Coleman said is costing the taxpayers dearly. He said the incumbent hasn’t worked in education and usually “votes the way the whole board does.”

“I think the community just deserves someone who's a lot more active and a lot more involved in these kinds of issues, because they matter a lot to the families here,” he said.

Collin College Controversies

Collin College has been at the center of a series of unflattering stories in recent years.

On Monday, the American Association of University Professors published a report that found “egregious violations” of academic freedom related to the administration’s “summary termination of [three] professors.”
In a campus-climate survey taken by members of the faculty, staff and administration, respondents indicated that Collin College has fostered a hostile and toxic workplace. (Wallace described reading their answers as a “punch in the gut.”) Some complained that Collin College is an unsafe environment for women and minorities. Others noted that they refrain from speaking their minds for fear of retaliation.

The survey further found that some faculty feel that academic freedom has been squelched. Participants also cited an “authoritarian” power structure, record-low morale and instances of sexism, bias, racism and discrimination.

Certain employees don’t feel heard by the college and want it to return to being an institution where they’re proud to work.

And earlier this year, for the third year in a row, Collin College made the list of 10 worst colleges for free speech compiled by advocacy group the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (formerly the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education).
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Simone Carter is a staff news reporter at the Dallas Observer who graduated from the University of North Texas' Mayborn School of Journalism. Her favorite color is red, but she digs Miles Davis' Kind of Blue.
Contact: Simone Carter

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