UCF versus the conservative professor: Judge dismisses some, not all, counts in lawsuit

University of Central Florida's Pegasus seal, as the tradition i
The latest in the legal fight between Charles Negy and UCF.

A federal Judge kept alive a lawsuit against the University of Central Florida (UCF) — though with some counts dismissed — as a conservative professor sues the school, accusing UCF of violating his freedom of speech.

“Although the plaintiff (Charles Negy) made statements that offended a significant portion of the UCF population, the First Amendment protects speech without regard for its social worth or if it is acceptable in the mainstream Nowhere is this more important than at an institution of higher learning,” U.S District Judge Carlos E. Mendoza wrote in an order late last month.

UCF investigated Negy and then unsuccessfully tried to fire the tenured professor, after he wrote a book on White shaming and posted some controversial tweets. Using his personal account, Negy wrote one post in 2020 that said “Blacks are not systematically oppressed in the United States.” That started his troubles with the school.

Negy eventually won his job back with the union’s backing through an arbitrator’s ruling. Negy, who has taught psychology at UCF since 1998, sued UCF in federal court last year.

Negy argued that while he received back pay and got his old job back, it wasn’t enough after the public backlash against him for exercising his First Amendment rights to freedom of speech. He argued the school investigated him because they wanted to oust him due to his controversial tweets.

“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,” his lawsuit said.

Negy said he “became the target of a Twitter mob that demanded he be fired.”

Last year, UCF sought to dismiss the lawsuit.

Mendoza dismissed two counts against UCF but allowed the counts for violating his freedom of speech to stand.

The Judge wrote in his order, “Accepting the allegations in the Amended Complaint as true, (Negy) was terminated in substantial part because of his controversial Twitter posts, and Defendants have been unable to show by a preponderance of the evidence that they would have terminated him absent that speech. Therefore, a reasonable official should have known that terminating an employee based on those Twitter posts violated the First Amendment.”

The emotional distress and abuse of process claims were dismissed without prejudice, so Negy could refile them later on.

Negy said in court records that “he is fearful of teaching the controversial subjects covered in his classes for fear of additional complaints and investigations.”

The Judge didn’t buy that argument and said Negy cannot pursue injunctive relief.

“Beyond noting his subjective fears, (Negy) has not shown … that he is realistically threatened by a repetition of his experience,” the Judge wrote, adding that the professor can still seek other damages.

The Judge also dismissed the claims against the school trustees who were named in the lawsuit.

“It is well settled in Florida that state universities, and their boards of trustees, are arms of the state that are entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity,” the Judge wrote, although the lawsuit also names UCF President Alexander Cartwright and other school administrators.

UCF said Negy’s posts disrupted campus and caused protests. The judge argued UCF was still able, however, to teach students and perform its core mission as a school.

“Disruption, debate, disagreement, and protest happen at educational institutions — whether the result of athletic wins and losses, controversial speakers and texts, or current national and global events,” Mendoza wrote.

The Judge pointed out that Negy’s tweets had nothing to do with UCF and came during a national debate on race.

Meanwhile, Negy remains active on X.

“Opinions are my own,” his profile reads.

Attorneys for UCF and Negy did not immediately respond for comment Monday.

Gabrielle Russon

Gabrielle Russon is an award-winning journalist based in Orlando. She covered the business of theme parks for the Orlando Sentinel. Her previous newspaper stops include the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Toledo Blade, Kalamazoo Gazette and Elkhart Truth as well as an internship covering the nation’s capital for the Chicago Tribune. For fun, she runs marathons. She gets her training from chasing a toddler around. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @GabrielleRusson .

One comment

  • My Take

    May 22, 2024 at 12:21 am

    “Blacks are not systematically oppressed in the United States.”

    Didn’t DeSlantis once declare almost exactly that. Maybe in the sense of we are not going to allow our schools, or schoolbooks, to say they are.

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