Following adverse publicity over New York University professor Michael Rectenwald’s claim that he was “pushed out the door” for mocking political correctness under the Twitter handle “Deplorable NYU Professor,” the school now insists his sudden departure on paid leave was purely voluntary.
“It was not demanded by the University and is unconnected to his social media postings,” says chief spokesman John Beckham. “He requested the leave, and we look forward to having him back when he is ready. His leave has absolutely nothing to do with his Twitter account or his opinions on issues of the day.
Meanwhile, Rectenwald — directly contradicting his own claims to the New York Post on Saturday — is now saying the school did not retaliate against him for voicing unorthodox opinions.
“Everybody is sort of exaggerating things here and there,” Rectenwald, a self-identified communist, told the Washington Square News, a student publication. “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.”
But he actually asserted an explicit connection to the Post and said his career was “over.”
“They claimed they were worried about me and a couple people had expressed concern about my mental health. They suggested my voicing these opinions was a cry for help. Then they said I should leave and get help.”
He added, “They had no reason to believe that my mental health was in question, unless to have a different opinion makes one insane.”
Asked for clarification, Rectenwald, who is reportedly coming up for tenure soon, told the Washington Gadfly, “I’m not going to do any additional interviews until a piece I wrote appears in The Washington Post” tomorrow morning.
Hello? Does he think, six days before the election, everybody in America is waited with baited breath for his side of yet another campus political correctness story? And he is giving WaPo some huge exclusive?
Even at NYÙ, with undergrads hunkered down for midterms, most people don’t seem particularly interested. Although one student was horrified when told Rectenwald claimed the school retaliated against him for mere tweets.
“How are they going to fire him for something he did outside the classroom?” she wondered.
Private employers can fire anybody for any non-discriminatory reason — including behavior or speech outside the workplace.
But veteran civil libertarian Norman Siegel, who is so steadfastly committed to neutral principles he has even defended Donald Trump on free speech grounds, said when the Post story was first published, “the right of students and faculty to express one’s viewpoints, whether popular and/or controversial [is] fundamental to academic institutions. If he wants to call me and discuss his situation, I would be willing to talk with him.”