A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: Newton murders

Tenure Is Forever, Right?

James Tracy

By Jennifer Williams

From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.  Conspiracy theory (noun): a theory which attempts to explain a disputed event as a plot by a secret group rather than as an isolated act.

Several popular theories have cropped up through the years: In 1947, the story goes, an unidentified flying object (UFO) collided with New Mexico, but the U.S. military suggests this was just a weather balloon. There are those who don’t buy the lone gunman explanation of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. And some posit that NASA deceived the public into believing the Apollo 11 landed on the moon as a public relations stunt to boost morale during the Cold War.

Conspiracy theorists have a knack for emerging with their theories when emotions surrounding an event run particularly high. And they usually suggest the government was involved, somehow, in duping the rest of us.

James Tracy, a tenured professor who teaches media and communications courses, at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) and holds a Ph.D. in mass communications and media from the University of Iowa, is no stranger to conspiracy theories. Shortly after the horrific attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School, Dr. Tracy took to his personal blog to question how Adam Lanza was able to fire so many shots, why there was so little surveillance video from the crime scene, and what accounted for the absence of the victims’ family members from the public eye immediately following the shootings.

“One is left to inquire,” he said, “whether the Sandy Hook shooting ever took place—at least in the way law enforcement authorities and the nation’s news media have described.”

It shouldn’t be surprising that many, like Anderson Cooper, were (and still are) outraged by Dr. Tracy’s statements, some even calling for Dr. Tracy to be fired.  But Dr. Tracy doesn’t seem too concerned saying of the University, “if they’re not going to stand up for free speech and ideas and things of the like, then I’m not too sure I want to be here, either.”

Like many, if not most of the nation, I watched with great sadness as the events at Sandy Hook unfolded last December 14. And his statements seem baseless and insensitive, at best. But an emotional reaction to Dr. Tracy’s statements is not a valid reason to fire him.  Is it? LASIS wondered if Dr. Tracy has a protected right to express his ideas and keep his job, or if FAU can legally fire him.

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