Charles Negy should be an academic freedom and free speech cause around the nation, but sadly, some academic freedom and some free speech matters more than others in the age of Black Lives Matter.
Defenders of academic freedom and freedom of speech throughout academia should be rallying to the defense of University of Central Florida Professor Charles Negy after egregious retaliation against him for expressing constitutionally protected views on Twitter.
The American Association of University Professors, the premier faculty organization defending academic freedom, should be marshalling its substantial resources and committees behind Prof. Negy, as it has done for other professors over the decades. Public interest lawyers and law professors across the land should be volunteering their services.
Instead, Negy stands almost alone against the administrative and legal weight of the massive publicly-funded UCF.
There has been near silence because Negy’s protected speech was critical of the prevailing campus racial politics. In the age of Black Lives Matter dominance on campuses, anything that questions the prevailing racial narrative could be a career-ender.
Readers of Legal Insurrection are familiar with the Negy story, because we have covered it several times, starting with The administrative torment of UCF Prof. Charles Negy:
Negy’s alleged crime that sparked the controversy was two tweets questioning the orthodoxy of systemic racism and white privilege.
One tweet, which no longer is available,said:
“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?”
A second tweet, also no longer available, said:
“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.”
Legal Insurrection Foundation already has obtained substantial public records from UCF pursuant our joint effort with Judicial Watch, but we have a long way to go before we complete review, and we are owed many more documents.
Negy’s tweets, which UCF admits were constitutionally protected and for which they could not punish Prof. Negy, set in motion a particularly vicious online and on-the-ground mob, which included participation in protests by senior UCF administrators, including the President of UCF, Alexander Cartwright.
What resulted was a retaliatory investigation of Negy seeking to find a reason UCF could fire him, including the solicitation by the UCF administration of complaints regarding his 22-years on campus and in the classroom. The investigation took 8 months, consummed several hundred witness interviews and thousands of pages of documents, all in an effort by UCF to find a pretext to fire Negy without having to admit it was the tweets and the online mob at issue.
Predictably, at the end of the investigation, UCF found Negy to have committed wrongdoing, as released in an over 240-page Report and accompanying notice of intent to terminate, which we covered in Prof. Charles Negy: Investigative Report is “UCF’s attempt to justify getting rid of me because I have become a political liability”. Read that post for all the details, including Negy’s rebuttal, which read in part:
This letter serves as my written response to your Notice of Intent to Terminate dated January 13, 2021.
In the response below, I will address each of the four major categories of allegation in the Notice of Termination. Before I do that, however, I want to clearly state the following:
This investigation was initiated – by a public message from top administrators openly soliciting complaints against me – in retaliation for my constitutionally protected speech on Twitter. Knowing that it could not fire me for those tweets, UCF has obviously gone to great lengths over the last seven months to try and find legitimate grounds for my termination. I challenge you to find any UCF employee, yourself included, whose entire life could withstand the type of scrutiny mine has been put through in UCF’s attempt to justify getting rid of me because I have become a political liability. And make no mistake, that is precisely what UCF has done: We have President Cartwright on video agreeing with a student protester that I should have been fired before I got tenure. We have on video the UCF Provost telling students through a megaphone that the way to avoid “this type of problem” is to let UCF know: “…you have to file a complaint about discriminatory behavior.” And we have on video the UCF Chief Diversity Officer telling students on UCF’s official Twitter account that “#UCFFireHim…I understand all of that, but the fact of the matter is it’s not going to happen overnight.”
The goal from the day #UCFFireHim began trending was to terminate my employment with UCF because of my unpopular views conveyed in my constitutionally protected speech. The investigation/inquisition that followed was nothing less than “show me the man, and I’ll show you the crime.” If this unlawful effort to terminate me stands, not only will it severely chill the speech of faculty and students at UCF who might wish to express controversial views, but I will have no choice but to pursue legal action.
With that said, I would like to address each of the four major issues raised in your Notice and explain why they do not constitute legitimate grounds for my termination. I would also like to state that I am more than happy to discuss in greater detail any of the individual findings in the OIE report that comprise these broader findings: while you stated in your Notice that they are “too numerous to fully document here,” I am prepared to defend against each and every one of those findings in detail and, to the extent your ultimate decision relies on one or more specific findings not covered in my response here, I would appreciate the opportunity to address those specific findings.
UCF now has followed through, and fired Negy in a letter (pdf.) distributed by UCF to media without redacting what appears to be Negy’s home address despite protesters having approached his home in the past (we have redacted from our image below), and posted by media outlets including the UCF student newspaper, Knight News:
#UCF just gave us this letter confirming the school fired Prof. Charles Negy today.
On January 27, 2021, just before Negy’s termination letter but when the outcome was obvious, The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education wrote about Negy’s treatment, UCF is killing academic freedom to punish tweets it didn’t like. Read the whole thing, here is an excerpt:
The University of Central Florida is trying to fire tenured professor Charles Negy for his speech, and if they succeed, it will undermine the concept of academic freedom. No UCF professor — and, if a court permits this termination, no professor in that jurisdiction — will be able to rely on it.
To be clear, UCF does not want you to think Negy is being punished for his speech. They’ve written a 244-page report, which involved interviewing over 300 people over seven months about incidents covering more than 15 years, to convince you otherwise.
But this is all either theater or self-delusion by UCF administrators who want to think they aren’t motivated by a desire to censor a controversial professor. The entire process of preparing this report was motivated by complaints about Negy’s tweets. Nobody interviews 300 people over seven months about incidents covering 15 years unless they’re desperate to find something, anything, to use against their target. UCF’s lack of sincerity in their investigation of Negy’s tweets — which, technically, was what they were investigating, based on the spurious allegation that Negy’s offensive tweets were required reading in his classes — is reflected in their decision to investigate allegations as far back as 2005, the year before Twitter was founded.
No, nothing was going to stand between UCF and Negy’s termination: not the First Amendment, not due process, and not academic freedom. That’s why Negy was set up to fail the nine hours of interrogation he went through and why UCF’s conclusion rests on a nonsensical implementation of academic freedom so razor-thin as to be transparent.
Negy has started a Go-Fund-Me page, trying to raise $50,000 to cover his living expenses now that he is unemployed, and his legal fees. His full response to the termination, posted at the fundraising page, also is reprinted at the bottom of this post.
[UPDATE – NEGY’S GOFUNDME PAGE HAS BEEN REMOVED – Was active when this post went live, taken down around 8:30 p.m. Will report details of what happened when I find out.][Further update: His page apparently was taken down by GoFundMe for violating its terms of service because you can’t raise money to defend yourself against charges of discrimination (seriously). He has set up a PayPal account, let’s see how long that lasts.]
He’s going to need a lot more than that. The only reason the Gibson family was able to take on Oberlin College was because they has a contingency fee law firm that could bear the carrying costs. In the end, both the Gibson’s lawyers and the college’s lawyers (presumably paid by insurance) ran up $5 million in lawyer time and expenses each, and that was only through trial.
UCF wants to destroy Negy every bit as much as Oberlin College wanted to destroy Gibson’s bakery. I have little doubt that the people behind and implementing the retaliatory inversigation will continued to expend taxpayer money persecuting Negy to the ends of the earth, unless some political force says taxpayer money should not be spent to supress academic freedom and freedom of speech.
Charles Negy should be an academic freedom and free speech cause around the nation, but sadly, some academic freedom and some free speech matters more than others in the age of Black Lives Matter.
My name is Charles Negy. I was a tenured professor of psychology at the University of Central Florida (UCF) and I was terminated on January 29, 2021, despite having been employed at UCF for 22 years. Because of my conservative views and critical comments about so-called “social justice” ideology, I am a victim of wrongful termination and I need $50,000 to survive and to pay for prospective legal fees. What is at stake here is free speech, academic freedom, and the principle of tenure. Your donation would be greatly appreciated.
My research has been dedicated to the study of cultural and minority groups for over 30 years and I have mentored hundreds of students (especially minority students) during my time as a professor, helping them to gain research experience and obtain admission into graduate programs across the country.
I am a data-driven scholar. Evidence matters. Even when data take us places that make us uncomfortable or cause us to question our cherished beliefs, data must be respected. In my classes, I have consistently conveyed to students the importance of examining data and forming opinions based on evidence, not based on what makes us feel comfortable. That process has caused some students discomfort on occasion, but also led to their deeper understanding of the complexities of human behavior. I will note here that I have obtained three major teaching awards while at UCF and I have received “Outstanding” on my Annual Teaching Evaluations for 17 out of 22 years.
I also believe in the dignity and respect each individual and each cultural group deserves. That belief includes the conviction that minority groups, at the individual and group levels, have their own agency. They have both a free will and the power to make judicious decisions in life that will facilitate their ability to improve their own conditions and fulfill their unique human potential.
That said, there are students who dislike my coverage of information about problems that disproportionately afflict their specific group. As just one example, I address at an appropriate juncture in class the fact that the number one cause of death for African American males between the ages of 15 and 35 is homicide, typically committed by a fellow-African American (https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2017/crime-in-the-u.s.-2017/tables/expanded-homicide-data-table-3.xls). There are some African American students who strongly protest my mentioning of such facts in class due to, presumably, their own sensitivity, and because they may believe that such negative information unnecessarily stigmatizes their ethnic group. I respectfully disagree. Discussing vexing problems in society that afflict one or more cultural groups is the only way we might generate viable solutions to ameliorate such social ills.
“Cancel culture” – groups of people who, if they dislike what your views are or what you express — believe they have a right to have you fired from your job (i.e., “cancelled”). On June 4, 2020, shortly after having read some Twitter comments that individuals engaging in cancel culture deemed “racist,” the “social mob” descended upon me and on the university demanding that UCF fires me. The comments I had made were in line with the questions I typically raise in my class(es). One such comment was: “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?” As indicated, social activists disliked such comments and called for my termination. UCF students began proclaiming that they did not feel “safe knowing I taught at UCF.
UCF’s newly-installed President, Alexander Cartwright, seems to have made it a personal mission of his to impose his “diversity, equity, and inclusion” ideology and policies on the entire UCF campus. I’ve been publicly critical of those policies because I believe the way they are implemented actually contributes to further types of discrimination. Consequently, the UCF President told a group of UCF student activists protesting on June 14 – before he had any idea if their allegations against me were valid – that I should have been fired before I obtained tenure. In fact, the UCF President, Provost, and their Chief Diversity Officer all are on video, denouncing my “values” and “comments” as “vile” and “hurtful,” but most importantly, proclaiming that I will be terminated (for more information about their behavior, please read: https://www.thefire.org/ucf-is-killing-academic-freedom-to-punish-tweets-it-didnt-like/).
How was UCF going to achieve their goal of terminating my employment? On June 4—just one day after the Twitter campaign #UCFfirehim began—the university posted on its website an announcement for all 70,000 students to read. In that announcement, they condemned my “racist” tweets, denounced my “values,” and at the end of the announcement, encouraged anyone who has ever experienced any racial harassment or discrimination by any professor to call their Integrity Line. Students, faculty, and staff were even encouraged to file such complaints anonymously (see: https://www.ucf.edu/news/addressing-intolerance-in-our-community/).
As part of the university’s supposed “investigation,” UCF subjected me to a 2-day, 9-hour interrogation, asking me about comments I had allegedly made in my class dating back to 2005 (over a 15-year time span). They completed that “investigative interview” in August of 2020. In the meantime, they sat on the results, in all likelihood, not knowing what they could “hang” me for. One of their major hurdles was trying to explain why none of the most egregious allegations about me do not appear on any of my end-of-the-semester student evaluations. That is because all of those egregious allegations were lodged after UCF publicly solicited allegations against me. It took UCF 6 months to finally announce that due to a wide-range of infractions, they would terminate me with just a notice of 7 business days.
UCF claims they are not terminating me due to my tweets. But the fact of the matter is, those tweets caused them to encourage students to lodge “racial and gender harassment” complaints against me and for them to launch a bogus, pretextual investigation of my entire work history, hoping to find justification to terminate me.
I will give just two examples here of how insincere their investigation was. One involves them accusing me of having “lied” during the investigation. The other involves accusing me of failing to report an alleged case of sexual assault to an appropriate UCF office.
I was asked during the 2-day interrogation if I had ever used the word “faggot” in class. I naturally assumed the question was specifically about whether I had used that derogative word to refer to gay people which I patently denied (I have never used that word to refer to gay people). Unbeknownst to me, the UCF person leading the interrogation (the Director of the UCF Office of Inclusion and Equity) had a copy of an email message I had sent to students in 2019 in which I told students that the Black Hebrew Israelites who had verbally assaulted the Covington High School kids in D.C. by calling them “incest babies,” “faggots,” and “future-school shooters.” I told students that that was a missed opportunity to confront bigotry, but no one dared chastise those African American men in all likelihood because they were black.
The Director of the UCF Office of Inclusion and Equity should have told me she had a copy of that email so that I could have more accurately emphasized that I personally was not using that term, but was merely reporting how others had used it to mistreat a group of minors. But what did UCF conclude about me denying I had ever used that word in class? That I had lied during their investigation.
The second example UCF is using to justify their termination of me involves a situation that happened seven years ago. In 2014, two female students entered my office and told me that they didn’t feel comfortable being in close proximity to my volunteer undergraduate teacher-assistant (note: they were about to have an exam in my class). I asked what had happened, and they told me they were at a gathering (a party, I believe) and that my T.A. went and sat right next to them and made them feel very uncomfortable. Naturally, I inquired about what he had said or done to upset them. They both told me that he spoke to them in a way as if he wanted them to be interested in him romantically. I then inquired more specifically if he had touched them inappropriately and they both denied it. I proceeded to tell them that they could seek help—perhaps counseling—on campus if they were distressed about that experience, and that at my end, what I could do (and did do) was tell my T.A. to monitor the very back of the auditorium
and they should sit up close to the stage by me, so that he would be far away from them. I recall asking them a second time if he had touched them and they denied it again.
A few days later, I received a call from a UCF employee who I believe, but am not certain, represented herself as an “advocate” and asked me if I knew that my two students had been touched inappropriately by my T.A. and that I, as a professor, had an obligation to report the situation to UCF. I told her: (a) I did not know I was obligated to report that situation to anyone at UCF (we faculty had not yet been trained on the Clery Act procedures), and (b) the two students told me twice that my T.A. had not touched them physically. The woman on the phone said, “That’s because they were afraid to tell you.” I distinctly recall responding to her with “Afraid to tell me? I had put on my ‘clinical hat,’ so to speak, with them and was quite gentle with them. I’m surprised they were afraid to tell me.” We quickly ended our phone conversation and I never heard anything more about this situation. No UCF office ever re-contacted me about my alleged obligation to have reported that situation. No UCF person to the best of my knowledge ever contacted my Chair to address my failure to report the situation. My Chair never mentioned the situation to me. And no mention of my mishandling of this situation was reported in my Annual Review for that year. Now, seven years later, I was taken aback to learn that the woman who had called me (according to the Director of Office of Inclusion and Equity) did not record in her paperwork that the female students were afraid to report to me there was physical contact by my T.A. I was even more shocked to learn that one of those two students (one had declined to be interviewed by UCF), seven years later, attributed statements to me that I deny having made (e.g., “you need to be more conscientious when choosing friends”).
I categorically deny the hodge-podge of charges UCF is accusing me of in order to justify their termination of me. I am pro-equality, pro-human, and even a minority myself. I also am pro-science: evidence and truth matter irrespective of any discomfort they might evoke.
UCF’s termination of me for my unpopular views and expressions—both on Twitter and in the classroom—represents a threat to three important cornerstones of a free society: free speech, academic freedom, and tenure. If UCF’s termination of me were to stand in a court of law, the United States would be heading down a dark path whereby not just professors, but citizens in general, may begin losing their constitutional rights to free speech, the freedom to question vogue ideas, and essentially the right to have independent thoughts.
On Friday, January 29, 2021, I received a Termination Letter by UCF. The letter contains their laundry list of charges against me that they believe justifies my termination. I have an attorney who will be challenging my termination, but this will take time. In the meantime, I must survive economically, as I suddenly have no income and no health insurance. My goal is to raise $50,000 to survive on while I pursue legal action. If I am successful in this fund-raising drive, I promise to donate any unused portion of the funds to the Foundation of Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) that works to promote free speech on college campuses.
Thank you for your consideration of this request and kindness.
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.