Griffin v. University of Maine System

August 2021
University of Southern Maine (Public college or university)
Portland, ME

Identity of Speakers

  • Patricia Griffin

    Professor of Marketing

Additional Information

  • Incident Nature:
  • Incident Political Orientation:
    Not Clear
  • Incident Responses:
    Faculty sanctioned
  • Incident Status:
    In litigation Federal District Court
  • Did not involve Speech Codes


On August 18, 2021 Professor Patricia Griffin responded to email responding to University of Maine System’s (UMS) announcement that they would be instituting a mandatory masking policy on campus for fall 2021 semester.  In this email, Griffin shared research she had personally done on the subject which suggested to her that the mask policies in question were not backed by rigorous scientific evidence, and requested that the school share with her any evidence they had found to the contrary in support of masking policies.

On August 25, 2021, Prof. Griffin met with the Dean and restated her request for more information.  She asserts that at no time did she indicate that she intended to violate the school’s policy, but rather than she was simply raising concerns about it.  Immediately following this meeting, the courses that Griffin was scheduled to teach were removed from fall class list.  Two days later, a pre-disciplinary hearing was convened, at which time Griffin reiterated her request for supporting data.

On September 8, 2021, Griffin received a letter informing her that she had been suspended and that the University would be taking additional steps to formally terminate her employment.

Griffin alleged that in the course of these communications, the University falsely accused her of threatening to not comply with the school’s masking policy. She also argued that the letter was sent in retaliation for her earlier communications related to the school’s masking policies.

When Griffin later learned that the University of Southern Maine President Glenn Cummings — against whom she had previously filed a complaint for creating a hostile work environment — would be in attendance at her official disciplinary hearing, she stated that she did not feel comfortable attending.

Despite this, the University opted to hold the hearing without her. In her absence, it was decided that her employment would be terminated as of September 22, 2021.  Prof. Griffin then filed suit.

In August of 2023, a US District Court judge ruled that Prof. Griffin’s lawsuit could go forward.  Prof. Griffin argues that her speech is protected under the 1st Amendment, while the University contends that Griffin “was speaking within the scope of employment.”  The judge did not rule on the merits of the case, but allowed the case to go forward.