Florida Atlantic University (FAU) fired a tenured associate professor who called several mass shootings hoaxes, citing his failure to report other non-FAU jobs or similar activities for three years in a row.
James Tracy, 50, publically promoted his beliefs in the media, online, and in his classroom that the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary massacre and other shootings were staged by the government. On the "Hoax at Sandy Hook" Facebook page, a post that appears to be written by him alleges that events were faked so that "local co-conspirators" may benefit financially by posing as parents of victims.
Last month, Lenny and Veronique Pozner—parents of a 6-year-old killed in the shootings—wrote an op-ed in the Sun-Sentinel accusing Tracy of harassing them and calling on FAU to fire him.
The school first reprimanded Tracy in 2013 for not making clear to his audience that his views did not reflect those of FAU. In November, the school again reprimanded him for "insubordination and failure to follow university policy." Then, last month it began the process of firing him, sending him a Notice of Proposed Discipline on Dec. 16. The termination takes effect Jan. 8.
School officials say they asked Tracy to detail his "outside activity" so that the school could "address potential, actual, or perceived conflicts of commitment or interest." He did not report that he maintains a blog and has a weekly radio show, according to the school.
Tracy's union, the United Faculty of Florida, is aiding him, citing its "legal and ethical obligation to provide fair and vigorous representation in all cases" involving members.
"I can only hope that they give him the same process that it would give any other faculty member who is accused of the same violations that Professor Tracy is," says Peter Bonilla from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. "It's very easy for anyone's message to go viral and to lose control of that message, and universities have in those situations a lot of pressure to look for a kind of quick an easy solution" (Svrluga, "Grade Point," Washington Post, 1/6; Alvarez, New York Times, 1/6).
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