The professor who tweeted about "black privilege" must be brought back to work by the university.
An arbitrator decided that the University of Central Florida didn't have "just cause" to fire Charles Negy last year. Negy was a tenured professor whose comments on campus caused outrage.
An arbitrator has ruled that the University of Central Florida must bring back a longtime tenured professor who was fired after racist comments he made on Twitter after the death of George Floyd.
The arbitrator said that the university didn't show "just cause" when it fired Charles Negy, a professor who wrote a book called "White Shaming: Bullying Based on Prejudice, Virtue-Signaling, and Ignorance," in January 2021.
The university said it would not appeal the ruling, which says that Dr. Negy must be reinstated with tenure, pay, and benefits, and that it would work with him "on the details of his work assignment for the fall term."
In a statement, the university said, "U.C.F. stands by the actions taken after a thorough investigation found repeated misconduct in Professor Negy's classroom, including forcing his views on religion, sex, and race." "However, we have to go along with what the arbitrator says."
Dr. Negy was an associate professor of psychology at the university for 22 years and had tenure for 18 years before he was fired. He said he expected to be back in the classroom in August.
"From the start, it was a fake firing," Dr. Negy said in an interview. "Just because George Floyd died, which was a national tragedy, doesn't mean the social mob can go around demanding people get fired because they are offended by controversial comments."
In June 2020, the university said it was looking into Dr. Negy's tweets and complaints about bias and unfair treatment in his classroom. It said there would be an investigation a day after he wrote that he had a "sincere question" about Mr. Floyd's death, when people all over the country were protesting the killing.
"Would we still say'systematic racism' exists if Afr. Americans as a group had the same behavior profile as Asian Americans, such as doing the best on average in school, making the most money, committing the least crimes, etc.?" he wrote.
In another tweet, he said, "Black privilege is real: Aside from affirmative action, special scholarships, and other special treatment, being protected from valid criticism is a privilege." But as a group, they aren't getting the feedback they need."
Students protested over the comments, and the Student Senate called for him to be fired.
In a statement at the time, university leaders, including the president, Alexander N. Cartwright, said they were "disgusted by the racist posts" and were looking into complaints of bias in Dr. Negy's classes.
"If any student, current or former, thinks that a teacher or staff member may have treated them badly or unfairly, we want to know about it," they wrote.
As anger grew, Dr. Negy said he deleted the tweets "in a panic," which he now regrets because he stands by them "100%."
In January 2021, Dr. Negy was fired from his job at the university, but it wasn't because of his tweets, which the school said were protected by the First Amendment.
In a letter of dismissal, the university said that Dr. Negy had repeatedly broken university rules and policies and had made "a hostile learning environment" for his students through "discriminatory harassment."
The letter said that he had stopped students from complaining about his behavior in the classroom and had not told anyone that a student had told him in February 2014 that one of his teaching assistants had sexually assaulted her.
Dr. Negy, who is 61 years old, denied the accusations and went through a union grievance process to fight his firing.
Ben Falcigno, the arbitrator who made the decision on Monday, said that the university didn't have "just cause" to fire Dr. Negy because it didn't give him a chance to change his behavior in the classroom or show that he couldn't change.
Mr. Falcigno said that Dr. Negy had won three awards for teaching excellence and productivity, and that his last five annual evaluations showed that he was "rated as overall outstanding." He also said that the university had given Dr. Negy a raise to keep him from leaving.
"There is no evidence that UCF gave him any reason to think he was anything but as highly regarded as his evaluations and treatment, so he had no reason to perform differently," Mr. Falcigno wrote. He also said that management was now blaming him for "what it now sees as serious misconduct."
Alissa Carmi, a senior at UCF and one of Dr. Negy's former students, said on Thursday that she was heartbroken by the news.
"I cried my eyes out as soon as I heard that this morning," she said.
Ms. Carmi said that she and a roommate had spent months getting statements from Dr. Negy's current and former students who said they had been treated unfairly because of their race or other factors in his classroom.
A summary of Dr. Negy's book says that it argues "white Americans and white culture are often under attack for a wide range of wrongdoings, from colonialism to slavery to Jim Crow laws to racism to microaggressions to white privilege."
"It shows that a professor can tell a student what to think about religion, racism, and other things just for a grade," Ms. Carmi said.
One of Dr. Negy's lawyers, Samantha Harris, said that the arbitrator's decision was "a win for the rule of law and a reminder of how important due process is."
"The arbitrator's decision is a strong rebuke of the'show me the man, I'll find you the crime' treatment that scares so many people into silence," she said. "Cases like this have a huge chilling effect on free speech, because most people would rather stay quiet than pay the price Dr. Negy paid for speaking his mind."
Dr. Negy said he knew he might not be welcomed back to campus with open arms.
"It's not fun to walk onto campus and know that no one will talk to you, but I don't care about them," he said. I'll do what I'm going to do.