Ignores How FAU is Imposing an Unconstitutional Prior Restraint on Its Faculty
Editor’s Note: As we have noted (e.g. here, here, and here), the Palm Beach Post and South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s TracyvFAU coverage suggests how their editorial boards live in a parallel universe when it comes to accurately reporting on such a significant First Amendment case. One exhibit is the excerpted August 6 article below, the spin of which denigrates Tracy while defending major media’s dubious narrative of the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre event.
In this instance we acknowledge that court reporter Jane Musgrave must have in fact read the entire appellate brief (or larger portions thereof) than a previous story suggests since she accurately references the name of its principal author.
However, the report fundamentally misses the crux of the case itself. The TracyvFAU appeal does not simply involve “former Florida Atlantic University professor James Tracy[‘s] … right to call Sandy Hook a hoax,” or his “ongoing quest to get his job back,” as Musgrave’s simplistic storyline suggests.
Rather, the case and appeal encompass the guaranteed free speech rights of every university faculty member at FAU and throughout the United States. In fact, the newspaper disregards what we make perfectly clear in last week’s public statement on the appeal:
Here’s what the Post’s overall coverage of TracyvFAU (perhaps intentionally) overlooks: FAU is using a policy derived from Florida State Statute as a prior restraint that intimidates with the threat of formal discipline all FAU faculty and staff members from commenting on matters of public concern, or making practically any public remark that could potentially displease FAU administrators and/or trustees, State University System of Florida officials, or the Governor of Florida himself.
Academic freedom and free speech at American universities should not resemble that of Communist China’s. Yet it would be difficult to conceive of a policy that is more openly hostile to the fundamental academic freedom and free speech tenets of any self-respecting US university.
Fired FAU professor declares it’s his right to call Sandy Hook a hoax
Palm Beach Post
(August 6, 2018)
Lashing out at his former bosses and a federal judge, former Florida Atlantic University professor James Tracy is back in court, again claiming he was wrongfully fired for publicly and repeatedly proclaiming that the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax.
In his ongoing quest to get his job back, Tracy insists a federal jury got it wrong in December when it decided the university fired him for insubordination, rather than for his conspiracy theories about the 2012 Connecticut school shootingthat left 26 children and teachers dead.
“FAU fired Tracy in retaliation for controversial posts he made on his personal blog regarding the legitimacy of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre,” attorney Richard Ovelmen wrote in a 63-page appeal filed last week with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal.
The university’s claims that it fired Tracy because he failed to report his work on his controversial blog, Memory Hole, are nothing more than a ruse, Ovelmen told the Atlanta-based appeals court.
As proof, Ovelmen points out that at least 20 other FAU professors regularly post their views on social media. None has been required to report their activity to school officials, much less been disciplined, he wrote.
FAU administrators targeted Tracy after news of his blog ignited a firestorm of protest with scores of letters and phone calls streaming into the Boca Raton-based school, demanding his ouster.