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Anti-PC NYU Professor Put on Paid Leave

Michael Rectenwald, Liberal Studies clinical assistant professor, has been condemned and punished by members of the department for his controversial @antipcnyuprof twitter account.

Diamond Naga Siu

Michael Rectenwald, Liberal Studies clinical assistant professor, has been condemned and punished by members of the department for his controversial @antipcnyuprof twitter account.

By Diamond Naga Siu, News Editor

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Michael Rectenwald, known on Twitter as Deplorable NYU Prof, is now on paid leave for the semester, the New York Post reported on Sunday. However, Rectenwald told WSN that he believes the paper misconstrued his story.

“Everybody is sort of exaggerating things here and there,” Rectenwald said. “The final [New York] Post article makes a causal connection between my getting a leave of absence and the tweets, whereas the NYU dean and the NYU administrator in HR assured me there is no causal connection between the leave of absence — paid leave of absence by the way.”

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.

Rectenwald said that he will try to relax and begin preparing for what might come next, especially as he waits for a decision on whether he becomes a full-time professor on a tenured track.

“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 said. “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.”

However, Rectenwald said that during his meeting with the dean, they assured him that his leave would have no impact on his possible promotion.

“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 said. “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.”

He said that although the leave was not mandatory, it was heavily offered by the LS administration and university HR department. In response to WSN’s original article, members of the Liberal Studies Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Working Group wrote a letter Rectenwald called “extremely unfair, mistaken and denunciatory.”

He also said the people who wrote it assumed that he was targeting Liberal Studies, when he says he was actually referencing academia at large. LS senior Asha Kuziwa helped write the response letter, which she said was a collaborative effort among all the signed authors.

“I have been assured that Professor Rectenwald’s leave has nothing to do with the letter which the Liberal Studies Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Working Group published last week,” Kuziwa said. “Our intentions with the letter were to challenge Professor Rectenwald’s flawed rhetoric.”

However, she has no comment on the decision of Rectenwald’s paid leave.

NYU spokesperson Matt Nagel said in a statement to Washington Square News that the timing of Rectenwald’s leave has nothing to do with his Twitter account or his opinions on certain issues.

“It is NYU’s long-standing practice to not publicly discuss the private details of employees’ employment records,” Nagel said. “We look forward to his return.”

He also said that the university does not disclose information about faculty leaves and that these types of leaves are granted at the request of its employees.

Rectenwald said that since the announcement of his paid leave, he received private support from other professors. However, due to the precedent set, Rectenwald said that none of them expressed these thoughts to the administration.

LS sophomore Sara Evans was enrolled in his class last year, and said that as a rape victim, she refutes his points regarding safe spaces and trigger warnings.

“[Rectenwald] would often make comments that wouldn’t be considered kosher. One time he joked about a disabled baby calling it sarcastically ‘a precious child,’ [and] although this never bothered me, I think it bothered a lot of my classmates,” Evans said. “One time a professor came in to monitor the class, and [Rectenwald] did a 180 on his teaching style, actually stood up and really taught.”

Evans said that his teaching style and values regarding political correctness affected the quality of the education he provided.

LS freshman Haiyun Chen is presently enrolled in his class, and she said that Rectenwald did not shy from speaking against politically correct culture and the bias hotline.

“I partially agree with Rectenwald that fighting diversity does not mean discrimination against the common crowd,” Chen said. “But I also think it is important that education means eradicating discriminations against the weaker party and [creating] more equal opportunities for everyone. I feel split on the PC culture at NYU because I see supporting arguments from both sides.”

Starting Monday, Professor Kristi Steinmetz will take over teaching the Writing I section that Chen and her other 15 classmates are taking. Rectenwald said that it is a scary feeling to be a target of an attack and to have a sense that academia at large might be against him. He said that his present predicament is exactly why, even though he stands firmly in the left as a self-identified communist, he feels it necessary to critique the left.

“All I did was express a view that was slightly different from theirs,” Rectenwald said. “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.”

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Oct. 31 print edition. Email Diamond Naga Siu at [email protected]

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10 Comments

10 Responses to “Anti-PC NYU Professor Put on Paid Leave”

  1. liana l. on October 31st, 2016 8:15 am

    This man routinely comes across as mentally unstable in some way and lashes out at people. I wouldn’t be surprised if he showed up on the NYU campus one day with a gun and threatened to hurt people – that is what crazy white men tend to do when they’re very angry.

  2. scott Henderson on October 31st, 2016 8:32 am

    “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 said. “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.”

    Ah, the sad moment when a middle-aged loser with a fluffy liberal arts degree, anger issues, and ZERO real world experience realizes he has no chance of ever getting a real job, outside of the sheltered bubble of academia.

    Welcome to the real work Mr. Rectenwald. Know what a Ph.D in Philosophy means outside the classroom? Flipping burgers @ McDonalds. Good luck.

  3. Bob Graham on October 31st, 2016 10:43 am

    Yes, Liana. He’s white people and that’s bad.

  4. Akash Narendra on October 31st, 2016 11:44 am

    I have taken a class under Prof Rectenwald, and he’s one of the best professors I have had at NYU. He is way ahead of his time, and his class really compels you to think.

    As a student, it’s sad to see the way people are talking about him. Regardless, speaking from personal experience he’s seemed perfectly fine. The only reason people may deem his as “unstable” would be because he makes institutions/people question their beliefs, and it so happens many people are not comfortable doing that.

  5. Alex Lopez on October 31st, 2016 1:15 pm

    As a Mexican American NYU Student and Trump supporter, Im disgusted and ashamed to be apart of a university that is against free speech and censors any opinion that disagrees. First NYU banned Milo, a conservative speaker, and now this. Censorship is censorship. All of you social justice warriors who claim to be against fascism should look in the mirror. Political correctness is Newspeak from George Orwells book 1984

  6. Tasha O. on October 31st, 2016 2:33 pm

    Washington Square News: You have a history of writing one sided articles. You may occasionally give some voice to those who do not have a very liberal point of view, somebody with a slightly liberal point of view instead of a very liberal. You’ll give light to those who either disagree strongly or are on the fence. I would say that to preserve the safe space for conversation you should interview both sides.

    As a person who still feels like I lack any real information to make an opinion on this whole event. I have a one sided article with a couple of quotes.

  7. Jkwo on October 31st, 2016 3:02 pm

    “This man routinely comes across as mentally unstable in some way and lashes out at people. I wouldn’t be surprised if he showed up on the NYU campus one day with a gun and threatened to hurt people – that is what crazy white men tend to do when they’re very angry.”

    Replace “white” with “black” and “campus shooting” with “late night homicide in an alley”, and you have the comment from a far right bigot.

    But people like Liana think really can’t fathom why we don’t see SJWs as kind, thoughtful representatives of a harmonious and loving future. People like Liana wonder why we’d have any problem at all with her type ruling universities with an iron fist.

    Both the far right and the far left need a big kick in the pants. You talk about lashing out without a hint of irony. Seriously? You SJWs have bullied people with unmatched aggression across the internet and across Western Campuses for the last decade or so, and now the right has brought on their bully to fight back – Trump.

    So thanks a lot for that.

    Sincerely, someone who hates fascism and censorship, unlike you.

  8. Jack Andrews on November 2nd, 2016 12:23 am

    It is great to learn that the reason for the success of Trump is not neoliberalism, class inequality, centuries of racism, oil wars or the continuing effects of McCarthyism and the Cold War but the liberals’ supposed silencing of the right on campuses and online bullying. I am truly enlightened.

    Thanks a lot for that.

    While you are at it, could you also please explain how the social visibility of feminism, combined with women’s sartorial choices, causes rape?

  9. M Levy on November 3rd, 2016 1:39 am

    NYU calling non-tenured faculty member who doesn’t tow the party line unusual? People posting here implying he isn’t stable because his opinion differs from the progressive group-think of this pampered faculty???? Liberal used to mean respecting the fact that there is DIVERSITY when it comes to political opinion. My theory? They’ve been sued for ageism, sexism, anti-Semitism. They don’t need another lawsuit

  10. Johnny Andrews on November 3rd, 2016 12:43 pm

    Thank you very much for your theory but encouraging students to commit suicide for their political views is not exactly a different opinion. Also, there are many requirements for tenure and while Dr. Rectenwald has done his best to fulfill some of them, such as by writing articles that have been of no use to anyone, he has also proven that he is not a good colleague for faculty members in his department or a good mentor for the students whom he wishes would commit suicide. He also makes libelous claims about the education provided by his department. He, for instance, claims that Nietzsche is not taught at NYU because of the school’s liberal stance while there are a number of Liberal Studies courses (let alone those in German or Philosophy) where Nietzsche is read. Hence it is quite unlikely for Dr. Rectenwald to win the case if he sues NYU but maybe he can use the publicity to score a gig at a Republican college, which may have been his goal from the very beginning.

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