Florida university fires professor who called Sandy Hook massacre a hoax
Florida Atlantic University has officially fired the professor who has attracted national publicity by claiming the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax and then publicly feuding with the parents of one of the victims.
The university sent a letter Tuesday to James Tracy, a tenured associate professor of communications, announcing the action. His last day will be Friday, the university said. He was scheduled to teach three classes this semester, and those have been assigned to other instructors.
Tracy was first told on Dec. 16 he would be fired, but could request an appeal.
But Tracy, who has worked at FAU since 2002, still may be fighting to keep his job, just not through the normal FAU appeals process.
The United Faculty of Florida is providing legal representation for Tracy, who is a former president of the FAU chapter of the union. Current President Robert Zoeller declined to say why the union thinks Tracy was wrongly fired.
“There’s a lot of stuff people aren’t aware of that I can’t speak to right now,” Zoeller said. “If I did, it would violate Dr. Tracy’s rights.”
Tracy referred questions to his lawyer, Tom Johnson of Brandon, Fla. A woman who answered the phone in Johnson’s office said he wasn’t talking to the media because of a lawsuit. She wouldn’t give any details about the lawsuit, and nothing had been filed in federal or Palm Beach County court Tuesday afternoon.
Tracy has brought unwanted attention to FAU by claiming the federal government staged the Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, Conn., as a way to pass gun control. His claim, first raised on a blog shortly after the December 2012 tragedy, received renewed attention three weeks ago after Lenny and Veronique Pozner, whose son, Noah, died at Sandy Hook, accused him of harassment.
Tracy fired back online, calling the Pozners “alleged parents” and accusing them of cashing in on Sandy Hook and fabricating their son’s death certificate.
“If Noah actually died, there would have been no reason to fake it.” Tracy wrote.
Although FAU leaders privately expressed outrage, a collective bargaining agreement with the faculty union generally protects professors from being fired for legal outside activities that are unrelated to their university duties.
Instead, FAU officials fired him for different reasons: insubordination and circumvention of FAU policies.
According to Alperin’s letter, Tracy failed for three years straight to submit a “Report of Outside Employment or Professional Activity Form,” which is required of faculty.
These forms generally list other jobs that faculty members have, such as teaching at other universities, or even unpaid activities that could conflict with their FAU duties.
Tracy told FAU administrators he didn’t get paid for these efforts, but Alperin said university policy requires faculty to disclose unpaid activities as well.
“You publicly engage in external personal activity that requires your time and effort,” Alperin wrote. “It is for the administration to decide, with your input, if a conflict exists, and how to manage a conflict where necessary. You have repeatedly and willfully failed to provide the administration the information it needs to discharge its responsibilities.”
Tracy first voiced doubts about the Sandy Hook massacre, in which 26 people were killed, on his personal blog. After the story attracted national attention, FAU reprimanded Tracy, saying he failed to make it clear that his views didn’t represent those of the university.
Tracy stopped mentioning his employer, but continued writing blog posts that raised conspiracy theories about nearly every national tragedy, including the Boston Marathon bombings, the Charleston, S.C., church massacre and the attack in San Bernardino.
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