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The Floridian Inquisition

I’m an attorney representing a professor at the University of Central Florida who is being subjected by the university to what can only be called an inquisition after expressing opinions on Twitter that led to widespread calls for his firing. UCF is a public institution—an instrument of the state—and is now bringing its full power to bear against a man who dared to question the prevailing orthodoxy that has quickly descended over so many of this country’s institutions. I cannot bear witness to what the university is doing to this man without speaking out against it. If we do not challenge this egregious abuse of power, things will only get worse.

Professor Charles Negy is a wonderfully eccentric man, someone who teaches extraordinarily controversial subjects—Cross-Cultural Psychology and Sexual Behavior—with bluntness and humor. He is exactly the kind of professor you want in college: someone who is passionate about his subject, who will challenge your deeply-held assumptions, and who encourages free and open discussion in the classroom. Negy’s bluntness has occasionally ruffled feathers over the years, but throughout his 22-year career at UCF he has received consistently superior performance reviews. For the past four years, for example, he has received an evaluation rating of “Outstanding” for his instruction and advising.

In June, however, things changed overnight for Negy after he posted a characteristically blunt tweet to his personal Twitter account:

Immediately, #UCFfirehim began trending on Twitter and people began to protest both on UCF’s campus and outside Negy’s home.

UCF president Alexander Cartwright understood, but was clearly disappointed, that the university could not fire Negy for his constitutionally protected tweets, telling the Orlando Sentinel: “The Constitution restricts our ability to fire him or any other University employee for expressing personal opinions about matters of public concern. This is the law.”

So Cartwright chose a different strategy: He publicly announced a witch hunt into Negy’s classroom speech. A June 4th message posted to UCF’s website from the president, provost, and chief diversity officer addressed the content of Negy’s tweets directly and then stated: “If any student, current or former, believes they may have experienced abusive or discriminatory behavior by any faculty or staff member, we want to know about it. UCF takes every report seriously. Concerns can be reported to UCF’s IntegrityLine, which also takes anonymous complaints.” (Emphasis added).

UCF’s clarion call worked. Since June 4th, a litany (we don’t know the exact number, because they won’t say) of complaints has been lodged against Negy for his classroom pedagogy, for speech that allegedly occurred over a 15-year period from 2005 to 2020. The university charged Negy with discriminatory harassment on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, religion, sex, gender identity/expression, and disability—it is worth noting here that Negy himself is both an ethnic and sexual minority—while providing him with only a handful of “examples” of his alleged wrongdoing. Negy begged for more information prior to his investigative interview so that he might prepare to defend himself, but UCF refused.

Instead, last Friday the university subjected Negy to an “investigative interview” that was one of the most Kafkaesque things I have seen in my 15 years advising students and faculty about campus disciplinary matters. For four straight hours, UCF’s investigator grilled Negy about accusations stemming directly from his classroom pedagogy, having made no effort to weed out the countless accusations that were obviously just critiques of his choice of teaching material. UCF also made no effort to consolidate allegations, repeatedly asking Negy variations of the same question, ad infinitum. And again, virtually all of these questions related directly to Negy’s pedagogy, which deals with unavoidably controversial subjects. When Negy, physically and emotionally exhausted after four hours of interrogation, asked if the interview was almost over, we learned that the investigator had not even gotten halfway through her list of accusations. Since he could take no more, another five-hour inquisition was scheduled for the following week.

This investigation was obviously undertaken in retaliation for Negy’s protected tweets, and it is serving its purpose: How many professors are going to be willing to speak out if the result is a nine-hour inquisition followed by an almost inevitable punishment? How many professors will be willing to teach necessary but controversial material if they know they might be called upon, 15 years later, to defend every statement they made in the course of teaching that material?

The university has made it abundantly clear that it does not care about Professor Negy’s free speech and due process rights. This investigation is a means to an end—to get rid of a professor whose protected expressions of opinion have made him politically inconvenient. Cases like this are canaries in the coal mine: if a public university—a government agency—can treat someone this way for deviating from the university’s orthodoxy, and face no accountability for doing so, then what (and who) is next?

The answer, of course, is you and me. We are next. If decent people do not take a stand against these abuses, it’s not a matter of if the state-endorsed mob will come for us—it’s only a matter of when.

 

Samantha K. Harris, a campus disciplinary attorney, is representing Professor Negy in his investigation by UCF.

Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing. Stories like this are nothing less than infuriating. Eric Weinstein said it in a pod cast that you can’t be equal if he can’t tell you you’re wrong and vice versa. If you tell me 2+2 equals a chicken, you’re wrong and race has nothing to do with it.

    My recommendation to lawyers representing professors in this scenario is to leverage the writings and research of other professors (minorities as well). In this case, bot Walter E. Williams and Thomas Sowell have written extensively regarding how Affirmative Action etc have hurt communities of color and they provide data.

    Also, I would like to see the logical among us to come together to start fighting these truly ignorant forces. If we allow someone, such as this professor, to fight alone it will simply get buried even if he wins. We need class action lawsuits, go fund me accounts, our own groups that ‘fight’ for logic and reality.

    Taking the high road is simply not sustainable any longer.

  2. But why do people think that because they are offended they have a right to harm someone? What ever happened to turning the other cheek?

  3. Isn’t that the entire point of tenure? So that professors can voice challenging ideas without fear, that is.

  4. Last paragraph of Bonfire of the Inanities:

    What America needs to do is treat blacks as human beings with free will who when they make good choices should enjoy the benefits and when they make bad choices should experience the consequences. Instead, The Establishment views blacks as our Sacred Cows, above criticism, but beneath agency.

    Seems like an excellent example of critical thinking. I for one agree.
    Blacks have been treated horribly by the Liberal Elite for decades. Time to come up with some new ways of looking at things.

    I dont have anything to add that would help, I left academia in '93 after 10 years. Best move i ever made. It sucked back then, must be worse now.

    Most intelligent people dont do well at University. Especially white males, they end up a mess. Sad to say, but loosing his job is probably the best thing that could happen to the guy.

    My advice, advise him to get into the construction industry. Lots of ex-academics
    in Construction management. (this is not sarcasm)

    Bill Cosby, Colin Powel, Condoleeza Rice, all kinds of African Americans who have the same views as the offending professor. HUAAC showed us all what a witch hunt looked like. The Great Awokening is just another mob burning books and witches. Sorry the professor is caught in it.

  5. We punish rapists. What do you suggest be done to the administrators, following your analogy, of course.

  6. Or perhaps very noble: taking personal risks for others’ benefit. If professors never use their protected voice, they’re depriving their students from exposure to conflicting ideas, leaving them diminished (as we can see is often the case)

    It is really the professor’s job to offend his students’ sensibilities, sometimes. A professor who never offends anyone is a rather poor professor.

  7. I would recommend he not play their game and file a civil rights action in federal court suing the university as well as his inquisitors and relevant administrators in both their official and private capacities.

  8. But don’t you see that this emerging philosophy or new religion is incredibly harmful to African Americans? For years victimhood narratives have robbed young Black men in particular, of a sense of agency. And agency is important. Its helps Black teachers impart agency because they believe in it themselves, making them far less likely to routinely underestimate Black students potential.They have seen the effects of their agency on previous students. A sense of agency increases a Black man’s chances of moving into the middle class by 8%- that’s higher than hard work, or conscientiousness.

    It explains much of the disparity in social mobility between Black men and Black women. Black women actually perform slightly better than White women, in terms of social mobility, even though their income falls short because their higher likelihood of beginning life in a lower income single parent family means they begin from a lower start position. But social mobility for black boys is abysmal.

    Of course, fathers are a bigger factor- especially in the community- partly because they convey a sense of agency. But tell a girl that she is subject to systemic unfairness and an unequal playing field, and she will turn to her friends for comfort and sympathy- over time she will overcome. Tell a boy the same, and you are harming him. Males are very good at addressing practical problems, but tell them about an immaterial and intangible ghost which they cannot fight and they will just give up. They will give up on their study, they might join a gang, they could end up in trouble. All the crime statistics prove it. Boys don’t do well with hopelessness and problems they can’t fight or solve.

    Some might call this lying, through a failure to acknowledge very real problems, but sometimes a lie helps, rather than harms- especially for the purposes of morale. Think of the lies White parents tell their kids. Everybody has a talent. It’s just maths- you should focus on your English, you’re so good at that. You just need to find your forte. These are all ways to help substandard intellects cope with the fact that they are not the best or the brightest. But it helps. Kids do degrees in Drama, or Media Studies, or any of a host of other courses. They stay in school and get their GCSE’s or high school diplomas. And usually by means other than highly cognitive performance, they find their niches in productive society. Lies work, they really do.

    And sometimes you have to believe you can overcome, before you can. This dangerous externalisation of problems, blaming the system, is the worst thing since LBJ’s War on Poverty to happen to Black people- which deprived them of fathers in their communities, and directly exacerbated The War on Drugs and Mass Incarceration. With a sense of stoicism and more Black male role models in the community, more might have resisted hopelessness and the lure of gang grooming. This is just another instance of the Left doubling down on something that hasn’t worked for 50 years.

    So professors should express viewpoints that challenge this emerging meta-narrative, they should shout them from the rooftops- even if the sources that they find are crudely expressed, polemic and light on detail. The thing that is important is to challenge the consensus view that Black people need White peoples help. Can you think of anything more condescending and patronising, beyond the very real harm it causes? Better schools through school choice might be a start, even though it only works some of the time. Interest-free vocational (or part-subsidised) training in the 2% of districts where 50% of all violent crime occurs, might provide a feasible alternative to other options.

    But the real danger of this cultural movement, it that it robs the collective consciousness of its ability to use empirical evidence to detect the real causes of structural disparities and solve them. It pushes a vague, ill-defined theory of omnipresent oppression and systemic racism at the expense of very specific ways to address real world problems. It makes anti-racism overtly racist against the groups it purports to champion and creates yet another hurdle to the formation of Black ambition.

    Any professor who challenges this harmful prevailing narrative, doesn’t deserve to be fired- he is actually one of the few really doing his job.

  9. Well said Geary.

    I’d be very interested to see what Kurt has to say in response. I would think he is better than the lefty posters here who just come back with the same old ‘‘blame slavery’’ rubbish.

    I agree that black people don’t need white saviours. But they do need something from us to break the feedback loop that alows the lefties to keep misinterpreting black failure as racism.

    This is a cultural and a political problem. WHites see blacks mired in underachievement because of Democratic policy prescriptions and attitudes. They see a sub culture with many unstable v=families and corrupted youth. of course white people are going to be against this. But that is not racism, as much as liberals and lefties would try to mae you think so. It is instead a political cultural disgust. it is the same disgust we have for the underclass of any race and the lefties that enable that underclass to continue to live in its own social detritus.

    I think that right wing whites can actually do something. They can talk to black peopleand say 'We are your fellow Americans and we are here to make a great country alongside you. We won’t walk behind you or in front of you, but beside you, as friends."

  10. How do I join in the fight for free speech and logic?!
    When did people’s feelings become the most important factor in life? People’s feelings are regularly derailing what should be intellectual thought and conversation, and our society is instead focused on ruining the lives of people with whom they don’t agree.

    When and why did this become the norm? Is this part of the “new normal” that is being spoken of? That the collective “we” can so easily and so casually work to ruin another person’s life in a few quick keystrokes?

    Ostracism has historically been a part of society, but it’s been tempered by actually knowing the ostracized, and having to look that person in the face, and deal with that human being… not this keyboard warrior crap which has been in process to ruin the lives of thousands of people more quickly than is legitimate.

  11. The difference is that the girl runs the danger of being attacked by a criminal. In this case, the professor is attacked by people having jobs paid by our money. Quite a difference!

  12. It’s almost as if I don’t respect looters of shoe stores and mock them when I can:

  13. We are in the midst of jailing Galileo again, and again, and again.
    If we are not free to speak, we do not have free speech. We do not have freedom of thought without free speech.

    We have become our own jailers, and are simply doing the work of those in power for them, they don’t even have to lift a finger these days.

  14. The irony: he cites an article noting that no group of people should be protected from warranted criticism, and is attacked by the cancel mob for criticizing a protected group. Perfect.

    The irony: the left has spent 50 years spouting the mantra that all boundaries are to be pushed (especially conservative boundaries), all rules are to be broken (especially conservative ones), all ideas are to be open to challenge and ridicule - mockery if necessary (especially conservative ones). Sex isn’t sacred, religion isn’t sacred, heritage isn’t sacred, language isn’t sacred, family isn’t sacred, morality isn’t sacred - all ideals (especially conservative ones) must be unceasingly attacked and thrown down with extreme prejudice. “We’re all adults!” I grew up in the 90s when this approach was in full bloom. Then, in the span of about 10 years, a total about-face.

    Suddenly the left decided a certain large swath of ideas had become sacred and no longer open to discussion, let alone challenge. And mockery? God forbid.

    Do we celebrate the eccentric professor who pushes and prods society’s sacred cows? Not any more, we cancel him. Sex is now sacred - to the point that a female can now retroactively decide that her consent was not actually real consent. Religion (not Christianity) is now sacred and anybody who questions its theology or motives it is labeled “-phobic.” Heritage is sacred (except for WASP heritage) and violations are labeled as “appropriation.” Language is sacred with powers-that-be wasting no time to create ever-growing categories of hateful and offensive speech. Have you seen the state of stand-up comedy these days? Language is now so sacred they’ve sucked all the oxygen out of this once-merry environment. Family is sacred - that is, the modern Timmy-has-two-dads family is sacred. The Christian home is still open for ridicule. Want to write and article about how destructive Christian, faith-based discipline is on children? Fire away with all the derision and scorn you can muster! Want to write an article on the need to consider the statistical volatility of lesbian households when choosing homes for adoption and foster care? Sure, if you want to lose your job and never work in your field again. Moral sensibilities are now sacred as well. So much so that leftist have created a shortage in the fainting couch supply-chain. “Think of the children!” In short, tread very lightly around leftist.

    That left has become what it has hated since the 70s. They are now the token stodgy, closed-minded, hypocrites; everything they’ve been accusing their enemies of for decades. Now that they are in power, they’ve smashed all the values they used to get there.

  15. You are such a… You think this is about the employer?! That is such a disingenuous argument. It is such a foolish argument, and shows that you truly don’t get cancel culture, no matter how much you SAY you are piously against it. You miss the point.

    THIS is cancel culture. Look out at your classes this fall. Any student can get you fired, and render you unhireable, take away your bank account, and get your family threatened. Look at your faculty, any of them can. Look at the staff, look at the server at the coffee shop you frequent, they are a danger too. And it doesn’t matter what you did.

    You don’t even have to have done something. It can be that a student who is a minority doesn’t like the grade you gave, or that you told them that they could not do something. You will never be given the ability to face your accuser or defend yourself. You may never know you were accused until the storm starts and people go after you. Furthermore, many of the people who are going after you are people you don’t know. And nobody can or will defend you. And they scream at your employer until they give in.

    I know a teacher who found a girl misbehaving after having snuck out of class. With her bf. She was rude to him, and he reported her.
    She made up a bunch of stuff about him and told her mom, who called and raged at administration about this Islamophobic teacher. He got fired, she got off. That’s when he found out she was Muslim, because he didn’t teach her. He was on hall duty. He was doing his job as dictated by administration.

    As we have repeatedly seen, it isn’t about what you did at work. It may be about something that you said 10 years ago that is now considered offensive. And if people want to find it, they can. There is no forgiveness, there is no mercy. You can lose your bank account, you can have your family threatened. And it could be for something simple like, for a biologist like me, leaving a post on Quora or another site because someone asked how sex chromosomes worked, and you told them. And now you are transphobic.

    You really should read So you’ve been publicly shamed. He tries to find answers, though doesn’t really, but he describes the phenomenon.

    The employer and employment is not the issue, Kurt. It’s the rest of it.

    And that is the problem with cancel culture. It’s not just about getting you fired, it’s about a dangerous way of interacting and being, a dangerous type of weaponized behavior. And that behavior is unacceptable and dangerous to our ability to act as a civilized society. It’s dangerous for our ability to act as scholars, to discuss freely, actually do science, test ideas, etc. And it has a chilling effect on our ability to function. It certainly has a chilling effect on our ability to educate.

    That’s cancel culture. This pious commentary about employers and their rights is a smokescreen. Don’t get lost in it.

    Kurt. That may actually be true. But if you meant it as denigrating, then diversity training to you who think ill of it. Honi soit qui mal y pense in other words.

    There are a lot of professors living in fear, and I am impressed by your ability to not notice that. Professors who would want to post more freely about all sorts of topics are now self-censoring, censoring their research, and it’s being reported by people who they feel free to comment anonymously to. You know one of them. I know several. It’s happening across multiple universities in multiple countries.

    I don’t know if you have ever read about how the Chinese did struggle sessions. You might want to think about that. Put yourself into it. Think about how you would react if you were faced by a sea of angry faces, all screaming rage at you, and not even because of something that you have done, but because of the color of your skin you cannot respond, only those who agree with them can.

    Now think about it happening due to an innocent remark while you’re talking amongst people you consider friends. Now think about it due to an innocent remark while you are standing amid strangers. Try having someone suddenly go into rage mode and scream at you that you’re not allowed to talk because of your race and sex.

    So dismissing me because you think that I’ve had one training and I’m just shell-shocked is frankly a slur on your character, one that you are committing. I’m not going to apologize for the dishonor this gives you, because it’s all yours and you created it. You own it.

    This is more of a Culture of Fear, one where you know the conservatives and moderates around you because they are quiet, and many of them will admit in private that they are terrified, and only the bravest among them will reach out and try to do something or say something, only to be shot down or screamed down or yelled at.

    Live where I live, walk in my shoes. If my family didn’t live here, I might well move. We’ll see. I know people who are.

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