University’s Policies and Actions Threaten Faculty Due Process and Free Speech Throughout the United States
““Tenure, free speech, due process and academic freedom are under attack. Without judicial intervention, employees and faculty at Florida Atlantic University and other universities around the United States, will continue to be censored, deterred or chilled from sharing unpopular information or opinions for fear that they will be disciplined on a pretext.”-Attorney Louis Leo IV
April 25, 2016, West Palm Beach, Florida – Former Florida Atlantic University (“FAU”) Professor James Tracy, who was fired from his tenured faculty position in January, has filed a civil rights suit against the University, several top school officials, and his faculty union representatives, alleging that the firing violated his First Amendment right to free speech and other constitutional rights, including his right to due process, in addition to the University’s long-standing principles of academic freedom.
Dr. James Tracy, filed the lawsuit Monday in a U.S. federal court in the Southern District of Florida, in Palm Beach County, represented by the Florida Civil Rights Coalition and Medgebow Law.
The suit challenges Florida Atlantic University’s vague and confusing “Conflict of Interest/Outside Activities” policy on constitutional grounds and also alleges that the manner in which Professor Tracy was fired by FAU officials—including the President, University trustees, and several senior administrative officials—alleging they violated Tracy’s constitutional rights to free speech and due process of law, as well as the University’s own principles of academic freedom, and Tracy’s contractual rights.
The suit also names as defendants the United Faculty of Florida (“UFF”) and Florida Education Association (“FEA”), and two faculty union representatives and officials who conspired with and aided the University’s administrators in violating Tracy’s constitutional and contractual rights.
Dr. Tracy, an award-winning American academic with expertise in communications, media and conspiracy studies, was awarded lifetime tenure by Florida Atlantic University in 2008. He holds a Ph.D. in mass communications from The University of Iowa and taught courses at FAU in Communications, including a course entitled “Culture of Conspiracy”.
After a defamatory local and national media attack concerning Tracy’s online postings in early 2013 (e.g. here and here), officials at FAU threatened Tracy with disciplinary action. The University’s Administration withdrew its first threat following intervention by Tracy’s UFF and FEA representatives. However, in late 2015 and early 2016, when school officials at FAU attempted to change the University’s vague and confusing “Conflict of Interest/Outside Activities” policy and to discipline and terminate Tracy’s tenured appointment for questioning it, Tracy’s faculty union betrayed him.
Despite repeated assurances from FAU faculty union representatives and officials at UFF and FEA that a response and grievance would be filed to contest the University’s unconstitutional disciplinary action, his representatives failed to file a grievance or respond to FAU’s Notice of Discipline on Tracy’s behalf, as required, which resulted in Tracy’s automatic termination by Florida Atlantic University on January 6, 2016.
The lawsuit seeks Tracy’s reinstatement and monetary relief, including compensation for economic and reputational damage suffered.
“Both Florida Atlantic University administrators and the University’s faculty union claim they are committed to protecting constitutional rights and principles of academic freedom, but their actions speak loud and clear…” said Louis Leo IV of the Florida Civil Rights Coalition and Medgebow Law.
“Tenure, free speech, due process and academic freedom are under attack. Without judicial intervention, employees and faculty at Florida Atlantic University and other universities around the United States, will continue to be censored, deterred or chilled from sharing unpopular information or opinions for fear that they will be disciplined on a pretext.”
Inquiries may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Those who wish to support James Tracy’s fight against Florida Atlantic’s unconstitutional actions can find out more by visiting the James Tracy Legal Defense Fund.