U. Central Florida Prof. Charles Negy, Fired After Tweeting “Black Privilege is Real,” Ordered Reinstated With Tenure and Back Pay
Arbitrator finds no “just cause” for termination. Negy: “UCF Administrators (and all university administrators) need to get the message that they cannot simply ‘purge’ or even discipline professors who do not conform to the DEI ideology that they are imposing on entire university campuses.”
The treatment of University of Central Florida professor Charles Negy was one of, if not the, most egregious abuses of power in the dozens of ‘cancel culture’ cases we’ve seen. The short version is that shortly after the George Floyd death and in the midst of nationwide protests and riots, Negy made tweets from his personal Twitter account
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.”
The tweets caused student protests, threats, and administrative retribution. There was a Change.org petition with over 30,000 signatures, a Twitter hashtag was launched (#UCFFireHim) that trended, the student Senate passed a resolution, and there were protests on campus in which the President participated.
#UCFireHim | UCF President Alexander Cartwright, interim Provost Michael Johnson and interim Chief Diversity officer Kent Butler talk about #CharlesNegy with students during the protest organized by @theyoungba at UCF on Sunday.
— UCF Knight News (@UCFKnightNews) June 15, 2020
Recognizing that it could not fire him for the tweets, which were protected speech, UCF launched an eight-month wide-ranging investigation to find a reason to fire Negy. UCF eventually purported to find reasons, some dating back over a decade, and fired Negy.
Here are some of our posts, please read them if you want to be sickened at his treatment:
- The administrative torment of UCF Prof. Charles Negy
- Prof. Charles Negy: Investigative Report is “UCF’s attempt to justify getting rid of me because I have become a political liability”
- U. Central Florida Fires Dissident Prof. Charles Negy After 8-Month Retaliatory Investigation
The treatment of Negy became a focus of collateral litigation regarding the lack of free speech at UCF:
- Student Lawsuit: U. Central Florida Treatment of Prof. Charles Negy Chilled Campus Free Speech
- U. Central Florida “Discriminatory-Harassment Policy Likely Violates The First Amendment” Rules Federal Appeals Court
Negy, because he was a union member, took UCF to arbitration, and was represented by counsel appointed by the union. The arbitrator has issued his Arbitration Award, dated May 16, 2022, ordering Negy reinstated with tenure and back pay. Here’s the key conclusions and findings:
What determines the outcome of this dispute is the interpretation of the meaning of Just Cause illuminated and guided by the facts.
The facts persuasive are that we have a professor of some 18 years tenured with consistently outstanding annual evaluations, with three TIP awards, recipient of a special pay adjustment successfully designed to persuade him not to leave UCF. There is no evidence that UCF gave him reason to believe he was anything but as highly esteemed as his evaluations and treatment, with no reason to perform differently.
At some point in 2020 a furor erupts over tweets from his twitter account, activity not related to his duties and also is protected free speech. There ensues a campaign by UCF to find out more about Dr. Negy’s classroom performance as related by his students. UCF reaches out to previous students, gets a number of responses and determines that serious misconduct has been occurring for years, lamenting that no system for detecting such misconduct existed to alert management to such disrepute. And, the misconduct is of such magnitude that the only course of action is immediate termination.
“NOT SO,” says Just Cause, that protective device designed to provide due process for employees in cases of discipline. Because this is an employee with more than 20 years of service teaching some highly emotion-laden courses that the employer has evaluated consistently as about as good as it gets, the employer is obligated to bring more to bear than a consideration long after the fact of how bad was the performance, the stated rationale by Dr. Johnson. UCF was also obligated to consider who was at fault for what, and how do the concepts of just cause and its instrument – progressive discipline – play into the decision – making dealing with the deficiencies alleged.
Put more bluntly, UCF made the basic mistake of acting as if management bore no responsibility. Nor did it give consideration to the messages in the form of evaluations and rewards sent year after year to validate Dr. Negy’s teaching, and now it wants to blame only him – with capital punishment – for what it retroactively sees as serious misconduct. Management cannot escape its obligation to clearly communicate its requirements. It must also be clear in what it communicates about performance. It does no justice to claim it made enormous evaluations errors for 20-plus years and then castigate the employee with termination.
Just Cause requires more consideration of Dr. Negy than what UCF offered. It is not a matter of sufficiency of evidence to prove misconduct years after the fact after you have heaped accolades for the performance period now being reviled.
No claim was made that Dr. Negy is not capable of responding to a demand by UCF that he modify his teaching practice to meet appropriate demands for change. The decision appears to have been taken based on Dr. Johnson’s conclusion, as he testified ” … it’s because Dr. Negy’s chief job is teaching, and we had come to the conclusion that his behavior in the classroom was unacceptable, was deleterious to students, and was dangerous. We didn’t see any way to put him safely in a classroom situation again” (tr.p.110). Saying so does not end the matter.
The University appears to use the 2014 incident with the female complaint about the TA to buttress its claim that Dr. Negy creates a safety risk. I find that Dr. Negy’s account of his actions in that case is a plausible accounting, not overcome by evidence rising to the level of credible. Once again, management failed the requirements of Just Cause in that UCF made no effort to offer Dr. Negy an opportunity to make whatever appropriate changes to his conduct in the classroom or, alternatively, determine and support a conclusion that Dr. Negy was incapable of corrected behavior, therefore unqualified for the protections of Just Cause. I find it unnecessary to make any determination that any specific charge or complaint was proven as a matter of evidence, inasmuch as there was basic absence of due process by UCF.
THE UNIVERSITY VIOLATED ARTICLE 16.7 IN THAT THERE WAS NOT JUST CAUSE TO TERMINATE DR. NEGY ON JANUARY 29, 2021.
THE REMEDY IS FULL REINSTATEMENT, WITH TENURE, AND WITH ALL COMPENSATION AND BENEFITS FULLY RESTORED TO THAT IN EFFECT AS OF THE TERMINATION DATE.
Negy issued this statement to Legal Insurrection:
The fact that a university would pursue a pretextual investigation with a foregone conclusion to fire a tenured professor because the professor does not conform to “diversity/equity/inclusion” (DEI) ideology is — pretty disgusting in my opinion. University of Central Florida (UCF) investigated my entire 22 year career with them in search of something–anything–that they believed they could use to justify their firing of me. Today, after a year and a half of grieving this with the assistance of the United Faculty of Florida’s Union-appointed attorney (H.B. Stiver of Tallahassee, Florida), I learned that I’ve been fully reinstated in my job with full back-pay and benefits. I do anticipate that I will file a lawsuit against UCF really soon. UCF Administrators (and all university administrators) need to get the message that they cannot simply “purge” or even discipline professors who do not conform to the DEI ideology that they are imposing on entire university campuses.
UCF has not responded, as of this writing, to our request for comment. [See Update below]
This obviously is a huge victory for Negy, but the fight is not over. UCF may have the ability to appeal or otherwise contest the arbitrator ruling, and Negy is evaluating possible suit against the university and its officials in federal court for violation of his rights.
We will continue to cover this case.
Samantha Harris, an attorney for Negy, provided the following statement:
The arbitrator’s decision is a powerful blow to the “Show me the man and I’ll find you the crime” treatment so often given to professors, like Dr. Negy, who express opinions out of step with today’s sacred campus orthodoxies. It is a victory for accountability and a reminder that due process matters. Nothing can give Dr. Negy the last two years of his life back, or take away the pain and humiliation he has endured at the hands of UCF administrators, but today is a good day.
UCF Assistant Vice President for Communications Chad Binette provided a statement that suggests UCF will not contest the arbirator award:
At UCF, we support faculty members’ right to academic freedom and the First Amendment rights of everyone in our campus community to freely express their opinions, and we encourage the expression of diverse points of view in a civil manner.
At the same time, we expect that faculty and staff members have a responsibility to not impose their personal beliefs on students, and we do not tolerate discrimination against any member of our campus community.
UCF stands by the actions taken following a thorough investigation that found repeated misconduct in Professor Negy’s classroom, including imposing his views about religion, sex and race. However, we are obligated to follow the arbitrator’s ruling.
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