A non-tenured New York University professor is on paid leave from the prestigious college following his criticism of politically correct culture in academia, including safe spaces and trigger warnings.
But Michael Rectenwald — an assistant liberal studies professor whose previously anonymous Twitter handle is Deplorable NYU Prof — told Washington Square News the school repeatedly confirmed that his views have nothing to do with his leave, which is for the semester.
More from Washington Square News:
Rectenwald said that the LS department called him into its office last Wednesday to speak about his mental health after a colleague reported concerns about his mental state. Rectenwald knows the person who filed the report and thinks they did it for the sake of saving him from being attacked by the NYU community for his differing viewpoints.
“I asked many times, ‘Are you sure that you’re not just trying to push me off into the sidelines because of my remarks?’ and they said no,” Rectenwald told the paper regarding his meeting with the dean. “Many times they said no, no, no. So the interesting thing will be whether in fact this has any impact on my promotion, which was due to be announced fairly soon — my file is apparently complete, so my file is waiting on a determination by the dean."
Rectenwald told the Washington Square News he'll now look into next steps.
“I’m going to think this through to get a handle of what’s going on — I may have to get representation for the possibility that my promotion will be foiled somehow,” Rectenwald told the News. “And my return might be jeopardized somehow, so I’ll probably have to get representation. Getting a job outside of NYU would be very difficult.”
The paper noted in an earlier interview with Rectenwald that he created his undercover Twitter account to "express his exasperation with the politically correct culture while shielding himself from social justice warriors — or SJWs, as he un-fondly calls them."
A seemingly atypical move for a professor who identifies as a communist, the Washington Square News reported, but then again, Rectenwald doesn't soft-pedal his perspectives.
"My contention is that the trigger warning, safe spaces and bias hotline reporting is not politically correct. It is insane," he told the paper. "This stuff is producing a culture of hypervigilance, self-surveillance and panopticism."
While his leave of absence wasn't mandatory, the News — citing Rectenwald — characterized it as "heavily offered" by the school.
Amid the controversy, members of the school's Liberal Studies Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Working Group wrote a letter to the editor at WSN criticizing Rectenwald.
It ends with these sentences:
We fully support Professor Rectenwald’s right to speak his mind and we welcome civil discourse on the issues that concern him. But as long as he airs his views with so little appeal to evidence and civility, we must find him guilty of illogic and incivility in a community that predicates its work in great part on rational thought and the civil exchange of ideas. The cause of Professor Rectenwald’s guilt is certainly not, in our view, his identity as a cis, white, straight male. The cause of his guilt is the content and structure of his thinking.
Rectenwald told the News the letter was “extremely unfair, mistaken and denunciatory.”
Liberal studies senior Asha Kuziwa told the paper she helped write the letter and was assured that "Professor Rectenwald’s leave has nothing to do with the letter. ... Our intentions with the letter were to challenge Professor Rectenwald’s flawed rhetoric.”
NYU spokesman Matt Nagel said in a statement to the outlet that the timing of Rectenwald’s leave is unrelated to his Twitter account or viewpoints: “We look forward to his return.”
Nagel also told the paper these types of leaves are granted at the request of employees.
Rectenwald noted to the News that since news of his leave came to light, he received support from other faculty members — albeit privately. Still, he added that it's unsettling to be targeted in relation to his opinions.
"All I did was express a view that was slightly different from theirs,” Rectenwald told the paper. “It just proves that everything else that I said was true — that they are like a mob or a witch hunt or a witch trial, and that they just shut down all views that aren’t sanctioned by them.”
(H/T: Heat Street)