Texas A&M investigates 'work stoppages' after profs '#ScholarStrike' in violation of state law

In early September, professors across the country participated in a #ScholarStrike for racial justice.

Texas A&M warned its faculty that doing so would be a violation of state law, but that did not stop some.

The general counsel of Texas A&M University sent a letter to Texas A&M leadership warning them of “significant” consequences for any professor participating in the nationwide #ScholarStrike. 

Even though her engagement violated Texas law, a Texas A&M professor still decided to participate in the event. 

#ScholarStrike took place Sept. 8-9 on college campuses across the nation. Campus Reform previously reported on faculty and students who participated in #ScholarStrike instead of holding or attending regular classes. According to the event’s website, the Scholar Strike was “inspired” by the NBA, WNBA, Colin Kaepernick, and other athletes who have gone on strike for racial justice.

[RELATED: Profs across America use class time to #ScholarStrike for racial justice]

“Scholar Strike is both an action, and a teach-in. Some of us will, for two days, refrain from our many duties and participate in actions designed to raise awareness of and prompt action against racism, policing, mass incarceration, and other symptoms of racism’s toll in America,” the website states.

Texas A&M chief legal officer Ray Bonilla sent a letter, obtained by Campus Reform, from the Office of General Counsel to the CEO and Provosts of the Texas A&M System, warning them of the Texas law prohibiting public employees from going on strike.

“It is important for you to know that any A&M System employees participating in such a strike or walkout will be violating Texas law,” Bonilla stated.

Bonilla made it clear in the letter that Texas A&M employees who participate in the Scholar Strike would be in violation of Texas Government Code Section 617.003(a) which states, “Public employees may not strike or engage in an organized work stoppage against the state or a political subdivision of the state.”

Should any Texas A&M employee participate in the strike, Bonilla warned that there would be “significant” consequences. 

Texas Government Code Section 617.003(b) states that public employees who violate subsection (a) “forfeits all civil service rights, reemployment rights, and any other rights, benefits, and privileges the employee enjoys as a result of public employment or former public employment.”

Bonilla “encouraged” university leadership to communicate this law to its employees as well as contact the Office of the General Counsel should any faculty or staff participate in the Scholar Strike despite the warning.  

[Related: Ivy League prof floats idea of racial justice strike, hundreds of academics fall in line]

Texas A&M Associate Professor of sociology Wendy Moore sent an email to her students stating that she would participate in the Scholar Strike. In the email obtained by Campus Reform, Moore said that she felt she needs to “take a similar stand” to the professional athletes who went on strike in response to the shooting of Jacob Blake.

“Scholars across the country have committed to this protest by engaging in a two-day work stoppage and/or organized teach-ins on the subject of racial inequality and police brutality,” Moore’s email read. 

Moore went on to say that she has decided to put a “full work stoppage” on her faculty responsibilities despite the “difficult times” that students are experiencing due to COVID-19 and online learning. 

“However, as a lawyer, educator, and scholar I have dedicated my career to social justice, and in this moment, I believe that that commitment requires that I participate in this strike,” Moore wrote. 

“There will be no zoom class on Tuesday, my office hours will be canceled, and I will not be available Tuesday and Wednesday,” Moore concluded. 

[Related: Grad student union claims ‘victory’ after being fired for withholding grades during strike]

The mother of a Texas A&M student currently taking Moore’s class who wishes to remain anonymous told Campus Reform that the professor’s decision made her “mad.”  

“We work hard to pay for our daughter’s tuition, and not only does she have a professor that spews [the] middle class is privileged, but she is actually taking time away from teaching to participate in a strike,” she said.

“How would this professor feel if my daughter or any other student informed her that they would be missing class to participate in a pro-capitalism, pro-life, or save Sully protest?  Would she be understanding and give them a pass, or would she hold it against them and target them for the class to attack?” she concluded. 

When Campus Reform asked the Texas A&M Office of the Provost if faculty who participated in the Scholar Strike will be held accountable, the office responded, “The Provost Office has received your email. In response, at this time, we are investigating allegations of work stoppages.”

Texas A&M Chief Risk, Ethics, and Compliance Officer Kevin McGinnis told Campus Reform, “Due to this being an employment issue we are unable to comment at this time.”

Moore did not respond to Campus Reform’s request for comment.

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