The New York Times reports that the University of Central Florida is investigating tenured psychology professor Charles Negy in response to allegations of his displaying bias and unfair treatment in the classroom. The university took the unusual step of sending a letter from the university president, Alexander N. Cartwright, and two other university officials to the whole campus community in advance of the actual investigation. This by itself appears in conflict with due process, but the story has another disturbing element.
President Cartwright’s announcement of the investigation came one day after Professor Negy wrote on Twitter two statements that, according to the Times, “prompted outrage among students and faculty and led to calls for him to be fired.” The university responded, “We are aware of Charles Negy’s recent personal Twitter posts, which are completely counter to UCF’s values. We are reviewing this matter further while being mindful of the First Amendment.”
On its face, the university’s investigation into whether Professor Negy displayed bias or behaved unfairly in his classes appears to be a reprisal for his Tweets. The timing of the investigation and the extraordinary way it was announced strongly suggest that the university is searching for some kind of actionable incident that would allow it to discipline or fire Professor Negy. This would be a significant misuse of disciplinary procedures and a violation of Professor Negy’s rights.
Professor Negy Tweeted:
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?— Charles Negy (@CharlesNegy) June 3, 2020
This article is spot on (will infuriate folks). Black privilege is real: Besides affirm. action, special scholarships and other set asides, being shielded from legitimate criticism is a privilege. But as a group, they're missing out on much needed feedback.— Charles Negy (@CharlesNegy) June 3, 2020
In an interview, Professor Negy told the Times that he is critical of all ethnic and cultural groups and denied any racial prejudice.
The National Association of Scholars takes note of the possible violations of academic freedom in this case and urges the University of Central Florida to heed the spirit of academic freedom as well as its formal rules. Searching for a way around the ordinary safeguards for extra-mural faculty speech is a poor way to be “mindful of the First Amendment.”
Peter Wood is President of the National Association of Scholars.
Image: Public Domain