The New York University academic whose pseudonymous Twitter account trashed campus political correctness and safe spaces was quietly placed on paid leave last week following complaints from colleagues and students about his supposed “incivility.”
“They are actually pushing me out the door for having a different perspective,” Department of Liberal Studies assistant professor Michael Rectenwald told the New York Post. “I’m afraid my academic career is over. Academic freedom: It’s great, as long as you don’t use it.”
Rectenwald started tweeting last month under the screen name Deplorable NYU Professor. His tweets did not identify him with the Liberal Studies department and were mostly generic. “The identity politics left: they need a safe space that is at once a hall of mirrors and a rubber room,” he tweeted on Oct. 11.
Although he did mock an NYU flyer giving RAs advice for helping students avoid offensive Halloween costumes. “The scariest thing about Halloween today is . . . the liberal totalitarian costume surveillance,” he remarked.
Rectenwald told the Post he tried to cloak himself in anonymity to avoid retaliation. “I remember once on my Facebook I posted a story about a kid who changed his pronoun to ‘His Majesty’ because I thought it was funny,” he told the Post. “Then I got viciously attacked by 400 people. This whole milieu is nauseating. I grew tired of it, so I made the account.”
But “social justice” warriors on a “witchhunt” managed to get his real name and the academic was contacted by a reporter for the NYU student newspaper.
“My contention is that this particular social-justice-warrior-left is producing the alt-right by virtue of its insanity. And because it’s doing all these things that manifest to the world, the alt-right is just eating this stuff alive,” Rectenwald told the Washington Square News last Monday. “That’s why I adopted Nietzsche as the icon for the @antipcnyuprof and that’s why I said ‘anti-pc.’ Frankly, I’m not really anti-pc. My contention is that the trigger warning, safe spaces and bias hotline reporting is not politically correct. It is insane. This stuff is producing a culture of hyper-vigilance, self-surveillance and panopticism.”
The paper published his critics’ response on Wednesday from a group of students and professors, including two deans, calling themselves the “Liberal Studies Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Working Group.”
“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.”
Upon publication of the letter Rectenwald was summoned to a meeting with school officials. The confab was like the Salem Witch trials, he recalled.
“They claimed they were worried about me and a couple people had expressed concern about my mental health.”
NYU spokesman Matt Nagel denied the suspension was related to his Twitter account but refused to give an alternative explanation.