A professor in Florida is testing exactly how far tenure can go in protecting a faculty member. James Tracy, a professor of communications at Florida Atlantic University, is “researching” — read, harassing — a grieving Sandy Hook family.
He has claimed that the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 26 people dead, including 20 children, never happened.
Tracy believes the attack was a hoax cooked up by the Obama administration to enact gun control. He has targeted the Pozner family, who lost their son Noah, in particular. The Pozners wrote in the Sun-Sentinel newspaper in Fort Lauderdale: “Tracy even sent us a certified letter demanding proof that Noah once lived, that we were his parents, and that we were the rightful owner of his photographic image.”
Florida Atlantic University, to its credit, has announced that it will be removing Tracy from its faculty. Tracy intends to fight his firing. He told the Daily News: “I think what this really involves is a matter of free speech … All I’ve done is to delve into the Sandy Hook event. I think the work I’ve done stands up.”
If he were an adjunct, no problem — don’t let the door hit ya where the good lord split ya. But because he’s tenured, it’s more complicated… but it really shouldn’t be. Can anyone claim this is legitimate research? Is “looking into” chem trails or whether the moon landing was faked legitimate research? At what point does a contrarian view, or some warped idea that one is investigating a cover-up, tip into paranoid delusions — delusions that cause immeasurable pain and harm to a grieving family?
Tracy is just one especially vile conspiracy theorist. But his views reflect, albeit in an extreme way, the opinions of gun advocates nationwide — namely, that what is happening is not really happening. Gun advocates have several non-reality-based POVs: that gun deaths are not really as high as the liberal media makes them out to be; that mental health is the real problem, not easy access to guns; and that the solution to gun violence is to arm more people.
All of these party lines are easily debunked with the most cursory look at the data on gun access and gun deaths in this country and abroad. And yet these false statements continue, possibly because many of us know and love some gun owners and want to believe that they are rational. We want to believe they are living in the same reality we are.
Florida Atlantic University has decided that tenure doesn’t extend its protections to faculty who’ve succumbed to paranoid delusions. The point when free, unfettered research turns into tormenting a grieving family? That’s the moment you get your pink slip.