An NYU professor crusading against political correctness and student coddling was booted from the classroom last week after his colleagues complained about his “incivility,” The Post has learned.
Liberal [Studies Professor] Michael Rectenwald, 57, said he was forced Wednesday to go on paid leave for the rest of the semester.
“They are actually pushing me out the door for having a different perspective,” the academic told The Post.
Rectenwald launched an undercover Twitter account called Deplorable NYU Prof on Sept. 12 to argue against campus trends like “safe spaces,” “trigger warnings” and other aspects of academia’s growing PC culture.
He chose to be anonymous, he explained in one of his first tweets, because he was afraid “the PC Gestapo would ruin me” if he put his name behind his conservative ideas on the famously liberal campus.
“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.”
On Oct. 11, Rectenwald used his internet alter ego to criticize “safe spaces” — the recent campus trend of “protecting” students from uncomfortable speech — as “at once a hall of mirrors and a rubber room.”
Two weeks ago he posted on his “anti-PC” feed a photo of a flyer put out by NYU resident advisers telling students how to avoid wearing potentially offensive Halloween costumes.
“The scariest thing about Halloween today is . . . the liberal totalitarian costume surveillance,” he wrote.
“It’s an alarming curtailment of free expression to the point where you can’t even pretend to be something without authorities coming down on you in the universities,” Rectenwald told The Post.
But the Twitter feed soon sparked a “witch hunt” by the growing army of “social justice warriors,” he said. And so, when he was approached on Twitter by a reporter with the Washington Square News, NYU’s student newspaper, the untenured assistant professor agreed to an interview.
“I thought there was nothing objectionable about what I had said,” he told The Post.
“My contention is that the trigger warning, safe spaces and bias hot-line reporting is not politically correct. It is insane,” he told the student paper in an interview published Monday.
But Rectenwald says he began getting “dirty looks” in his department and on Wednesday figured out why: A 12-person committee calling itself the Liberal Studies Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Working Group, including two deans, published a letter to the editor in the same paper.
“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,” they wrote.
“We seek to create a dynamic community that values full participation. Such efforts are not the ‘destruction of academic integrity’ Professor Rectenwald suggests, but rather what make possible our program’s approach to global studies,” they argued.
Rectenwald likened the attack to “a Salem witch trial. They took my views personally. I never even mentioned them and I never even said NYU liberal studies program. I was talking about academia at large.”
The same day that letter was published, Rectenwald was summoned to a meeting with his department dean and an HR representative, he says.
“They claimed they were worried about me and a couple people had expressed concern about my mental health,” Rectenwald told The Post.
The leave has “absolutely zero to do with his Twitter account or his opinions on issues of the day,” said NYU spokesman Matt Nagel, refusing to elaborate on the reason.
But Rectenwald is disheartened.
“I’m afraid my academic career is over,” he said. “Academic freedom: It’s great, as long as you don’t use it.”