Prof. Charles Negy, Investigated and Fired After Tweets Disputing Systemic Racism, Files Federal Lawsuit Against U. Central Florida
Negy, who was reinstated after an arbitrator ruled in his favor, alleges constitutional and tort claims for harm Negy suffered “for nearly two years at the hands of UCF administrators who, because they disliked his political views, treated him as less than human.”
We have covered the saga of University of Central Florida Professor of Psychology Charles Negy, employed by UCF for over 20 years, almost from the start of the attacks on him by students, faculty, alumni, and administrators in June 2020.
TWEETS: Disputes “Systemic Racism” and Asserts “Black privilege is real”
Our first post on August 16, 2020, was The administrative torment of UCF Prof. Charles Negy:
I had heard of Charles Negy, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Central Florida (UCF). What I heard seemed like a particularly egregious example of cancel culture that is purging academia and imposing uniformity of opinion, particularly with regard to the Black Lives Matter movement. Having looked into it more, it’s worse than I realized.
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.”
What ensued was almost beyond comprehension, far worse than I experienced during the post-George Floyd cancel-culture mania that swept higher education as BLM riots and protests engulfed the nation. Read that post for more detail on the attacks on Prof. Negy, including from the senior administrators at UCF.
Rather than debate the merits or lack of merits in his opinions, a particularly aggressive attempt to get Negy fired ensued.
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
… Students protested in front of his home, a clear act of intimidation we are seeing more and more frequently…
Suspension and Termination
Negy was summarily suspended, but his torment was just starting. UCF threw the full weight of its state-funded budget against Negy, soliciting complaints about him going back over a decade, then using those complaints to justify a wide-ranging and well-staffed investigation of Negy that covered hundreds of witnesses over almost 9 months.
The result was a Report declaring Negy guilty of various misconduct. The report was then used as the justification for UCF to fire Negy in January 2021, as we reported at the time, U. Central Florida Fires Dissident Prof. Charles Negy After 8-Month Retaliatory Investigation
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….
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
The treatment of Prof. Negy was cited in a student lawsuit againt UCF claiming the university unlawfully repressed student speech. That lawsuit was upheld by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and eventually resulted in a settlement.
Reinstated After Arbitration Ruling In His Favor
Prof. Negy filed a union grievance against UCF under the faculty union contract, and was vindicated and ordered reinstated by the arbitrator, U. Central Florida Prof. Charles Negy, Fired After Tweeting “Black Privilege is Real,” Ordered Reinstated With Tenure and Back Pay:
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.
After the arbitration award, Prof. 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.
Today Negy took the next legal step, filing a lawsuit in federal court in the Middle District of Florida
From the Complaint:
Plaintiff Charles Negy, by and through his undersigned attorneys, files this complaint for violations of the First and Fourteenth Amendments pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as for negligence, abuse of process, and intentional infliction of severe emotional distress. In support of this complaint, Charles Negy respectfully alleges as follows:
NATURE OF THE ACTION
1. In the name of a crusade “to be actively anti-racist,” as Defendant Alexander Cartwright announced on June 2, 2020, the University of Central Florida (UCF) harassed and retaliated against Professor Charles Negy because he dared to publicly express viewpoints out of step with the prevailing campus orthodoxy on anti-racism.
2. After Charles Negy posted several tweets to his personal Twitter account expressing his view that, contrary to the ascendant orthodoxy on campus, Blacks are not systematically oppressed in the United States, he became the target of a Twitter mob that demanded he be fired. Protests erupted at UCF and even at Negy’s home, leading him to require police protection.
3. Forbidden by the First Amendment to explicitly fire him for his tweets, UCF administrators publicly solicited people to come forward with complaints of discrimination and harassment against Professor Negy and then launched a malicious, pretextual investigation into every aspect of his 22-year career at the university.
4. UCF’s investigation culminated in a 9-hour interrogation of Professor Negy, during which a senior UCF administrator barraged Negy with hundreds of allegations that she had previously refused to give him notice of, despite his repeated requests. The interrogation — which included wide-ranging allegations, many of which bordered on the absurd — made clear that UCF was not merely investigating Negy for alleged harassment and discrimination, but rather was looking for any information it could use to get rid of a faculty member who had become politically inconvenient to the university administration.
5. Following an investigation which dragged on, without good cause, for 7 months, UCF summarily terminated Negy in January 2021. Maliciously invoking an inapplicable exception to the collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) requiring that tenured faculty receive six months’ notice of termination, UCF terminated Negy effective immediately. As a result of this sudden loss of income, Negy — who is the sole caretaker of his mentally and physically disabled brother — was forced to sell his home and move in with a relative.
6. Negy pursued a grievance through his faculty union for violating the CBA, and in May 2022, an arbitrator ordered UCF to reinstate Negy with back pay and benefits, finding he was terminated without just cause. However, the award cannot compensate Negy for the massive loss he incurred on the sale of his home; for the out-of-pocket medical expenses he faced after UCF’s destruction of his life led him to be diagnosed with anxiety and depression; or for the severe emotional distress he suffered for nearly two years at the hands of UCF administrators who, because they disliked his political views, treated him as less than human.
Samantha Harris, Esq., counsel for Prof. Negy, provided the following statement:
“When Charles Negy dared to express views at odds with the university’s sacred orthodoxies, UCF persecuted him with a relentlessness and a cruelty that is rare even among university administrations. While Dr. Negy has since gotten his job back thanks to his union and the decision of a wise arbitrator, that alone cannot compensate him for the massive personal and professional losses he suffered due to UCF’s mistreatment of him. Today, he is asking a court for justice.”
We just reached out to UCF for comment but as of this writing have not received a response. We will add UCF’s response if and when we receive it.
We will continue to follow this case as we have the events that led up to the federal lawsuit.DONATE
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