Academic Persecution at UCF

National Association of Scholars

The University of Central Florida (UCF) has just announced that it will fire Professor Charles Negy, an associate professor in UCF’s Psychology Department, effective January 25. UCF has mistreated Professor Negy—and it is creating a precedent to fire any tenured professor who speaks up against the radical academic establishment’s prescribed beliefs.

Negy aroused the hostility of the members of a social media campaign by tweets such as,

Sincere question: If Afr. Americans as a group, had the same behavioral profile as Asian Americans (on average, performing the best academically, having the highest income, committing the lowest crime, etc.), would we still be proclaiming "systematic racism" exists?

The participants in the social media campaign, acting prominently via the Twitter hashtag #UCFFireHim, immediately demanded that Negy be fired for expressing his beliefs. UCF demurred from firing him for exercising his free speech—although UCF President Alexander Cartwright improperly condemned Negy for speaking freely. Cartwright’s condemnation cannot but have a chilling effect on any other faculty member or student seeking to speak freely. Cartwright further announced that “we have launched an inquiry to quickly – but fully – evaluate this situation.” It is this inquiry, conducted by the Office of Institutional Equity, which has led to UCF firing Negy.

Negy himself informs the NAS that his legal team has a video record of Cartwright on June 14, 2020, before the president knew whether there was any validity to the allegations that students were making against Negy, agreeing with a student protester that Negy should have been fired before he obtained tenure. Negy further informs the NAS that his legal team has a video record of UCF Provost Michael Johnson telling students that the way to avoid “this type of problem” is, “you have to file a complaint about discriminatory behavior.” Negy also reports that his legal team has a video record of UCF Chief Diversity Officer Kent Butler telling students on UCF’s official Twitter account that they should “Do the text campaign if you need to, the #UCFFireHim…I understand all of that, but the fact of the matter is it’s not going to happen overnight.”

Even absent these pieces of evidence, it is apparent that UCF has sought from June 2020 to the present to fire Negy for exercising his constitutionally protected rights to free speech via Twitter—and that the ensuing investigation of Negy was conducted to find a justification for a pre-determined termination.

UCF claims that Negy violated a variety of university policies—and normally NAS would take the time to evaluate the merits of these complaints before issuing a statement on the subject. But the situation here is that UCF:

  1. Publicly launched a “fishing expedition” investigation of Negy, and actively solicited complaints against Negy, including anonymous ones;
  2. Sent Negy a letter on January 13, 2021 stating that he would be fired as of January 25—and inviting him to examine the evidence and present a defense within the next 12 days—which are only 7 business days, given the intervening weekends and holidays;
  3. Forbade him from returning to UCF’s campus without permission or escort, or from contacting anyone at UCF;
  4. Forbade “retaliation” against anyone who submitted a complaint against him and stated that any such “retaliation” would be additional grounds for termination—which, in the circumstances, amounts to saying that if Negy wishes to defend himself publicly against any false accusation, that will be grounds for firing.

It is difficult to tell on short notice how badly UCF may have violated the letter of Negy’s due process and contractual rights. Certainly they have violated the spirit: Negy had little chance to defend himself during this “investigation”—rather, he faced nine hours of inquisition, with no chance to cross-examine witnesses, or even to have his attorney speak. He now has less than a fortnight to present a defense against being fired—which will certainly be rejected by UCF. NAS cannot give a fully informed judgment of Negy’s case because even Negy’s legal team is still reading through the “evidence” submitted to justify his firing. Neither they nor we can comprehensively affirm Negy’s innocence of a catalogue of charges that were delivered to Negy on January 13 and must be read at high speed before January 25. But we judge Negy’s preliminary response to have great cogency: “the entire outcome of UCF’s investigation turned on a credibility assessment that was made based on my inability to prepare for my investigative interview due to an unconstitutional lack of notice.”

But of course UCF seeks to punish Negy for exercising his free speech—they have stated themselves that his tweet was the occasion for the investigation of him. Of course their punishment of Negy is a mockery of due process. Of course they are treating him with savage brutality, as they stop his income with less than two weeks’ notice.

And their treatment of Negy is the precedent by which the radical establishment will tighten its hold on academia. Even tenure will be no protection to any dissident. The Offices of Institutional Equity, and their administrative equivalents, will come up with some reason to fire anyone who publicly opposes the beliefs of the radical academic establishment.

NAS urges every American to come to Professor Negy’s defense. Above all, we urge you to contact Florida’s elected representatives, to ask them to intervene in his defense. Figures such as Governor Ron DeSantisSenator Rick Scott, and Senator Marco Rubio should speak up immediately and forcibly, to call on UCF to end this administrative persecution, vindicate Negy’s reputation, and rescind firing him. So should every other member of Florida’s federal and state senates and houses of representatives. If UCF resists their immediate call, they should speak up at once to call on UCF to reverse its decision as quickly as possible.

In the unlikely event that Negy actually is guilty of misconduct worthy of being fired, we would then support UCF in that decision. But even if that were the case, Negy deserves the full protection of due process—which he has been denied. The prima facie evidence, in any case, is that UCF decided to fire Negy for exercising free speech and sought a plausible excuse to get rid of him. NAS must stipulate the theoretical possibility that UCF acted in good faith, although we consider the possibility extraordinarily unlikely.

We anticipate that Professor Negy will also need financial support, both to pay for his lawyers and simply to pay for food and rent. He hasn’t yet asked for any assistance from the public—but keep an eye out. If he does ask for help, do what you can.

Charles Negy should be defended on principle—the defense of free speech, the defense of due process, the defense of common decency. But what is at issue is whether Americans will resist the completion of the transformation of higher education into a one-party regime of Dolores Umbridges who punish dissenters with cruelty and self-satisfaction.

We note that Professor Negy is not a member of the National Association of Scholars and that he may well espouse views on some topics that run counter to positions taken by the NAS. He appears to be among those professors whose pedagogy includes staking contrarian and sometimes provocative positions in class. We understand that professors who choose to provoke students often succeed. But pedagogy of this sort has its place in higher education, which university administrations often seem to understand and support when it comes to those whose provocations favor various progressive causes. The same toleration, however, is due to all faculty members, regardless of their persuasions.

Image: Nemesis63, Wikimedia Commons,  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license, cropped.

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