ORLANDO — The University of Central Florida plans to terminate a psychology professor over allegations unrelated to his tweets over the summer that many students described as racist.
The investigation found that Charles Negy created a “hostile” classroom environment, deterred students from filing complaints about his classroom conduct, failed to report that a student said she had been sexually assaulted by one of his teaching assistants and provided false information during the investigation, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
The university’s investigation of Negy began over the summer after officials received more than 500 messages about him. The findings led the university to notify Negy on Wednesday that it intends to fire him.
Following his tweets over the summer, many students and former students called for the associate professor’s firing, saying they deemed his posts to be racist, sexist and transphobic. However, the university’s Office of Institutional Equity noted that the First Amendment protects a public employee’s right to speak about “matters of public concern.”
University spokesman Chad Binette told the newspaper Negy’s posts did not play a role in the university’s decision to seek his firing.
“None of the findings in the investigation are a result of Dr. Negy’s comments on Twitter, which are protected as free expression, or comments in the classroom that were the subject of some students’ complaints but that the university determined were protected by academic freedom,” Binette wrote in an email to the newspaper.
Over the past few months, investigators from the university interviewed more than 300 people over the past several months about Negy’s conduct, reviewed hundreds of documents and listened to many hours of audio, Binette said.
“I disagree with almost all of the allegations, and that’s all I can say right now,” Negy told the Sentinel.
Nagy has been on paid administrative leave since Jan. 5 and is not teaching this semester. The university said his termination for misconduct would take effect Jan. 25. Tosha Dupras, the interim dean of UCF’s College of Sciences, wrote in a letter to Negy that he has until Jan. 25 to submit a written response to the allegations.
Dupras said upon receipt of the response, the university will make a final decision.
Dupras said the accusations against Negy are “serious,” and investigators found that students were hesitant to report incidents because he discouraged them from submitting complaints to the university.
“You repeatedly gave students the impression that you were insulated from complaints because of tenure,” she wrote.
University leaders condemned Negy’s tweets last year, but said the university must honor the principles of free speech and academic freedom.
In one post in June, Negy wrote: “Sincere question: 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?”
Over the summer, thousands of people signed online petitions calling for Negy’s firing.