A University of Central Florida (UCF) professor who was fired after some tweets questioning certain Black Lives Matter narratives must be reinstated, with tenure, and receive back pay, an arbitrator has decided.
Charles Negy, an associate psychology professor, was the victim of a prolonged campaign by UCF to find a reason to fire him after he posted some tweets that angered activist students.
“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,” Negy said in a statement to Legal Insurrection.
The case went to an arbitrator because Negy is a union member, Cornell Law School Professor William Jacobson wrote at the outlet.
“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,” arbitrator Ben Falcigno wrote in his Arbitration Award opinion on May 16. “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.”
One deleted tweet from Negy in the summer of 2020, shortly after Minneapolis resident George Floyd was killed by police and riots erupted across the country, asked: “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?”
In another deleted tweet, Negy 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.”
Students saw the tweets and protested against Negy, with UCF’s president participating. A Change.org petition was also created, gathering more than 30,000 signatures.
But for the 18 years Negy worked as a tenured professor prior to those tweets, he had received glowing annual evaluations and several awards, arbitrator Falcigno acknowledged. “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.”
But after the tweets, UCF sought comments from previous students in order to find a reason to terminate Negy, Falcigno wrote. The university made no effort to give Negy a chance to correct his behavior before determining his behavior was “unacceptable, was deleterious to students, and was dangerous,” according to Michael Johnson, provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs at UCF.
Because of the way UCF handled the situation, Falcigno ruled that UCF must reinstate Negy, with tenure, and provide “all compensation and benefits fully restored to that in effect as of the termination date.”
“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,” Negy told Legal Insurrection. “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 Assistant Vice President for Communications Chad Binette said the university disagreed with the determination, but said the school would “follow the arbitrator’s ruling.”
“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,” Binette told Legal Insurrection.