A professor at New York University says he’s been suspended fromteaching after colleagues denounced his “incivility” in publiclyattacking trigger warning, safe spaces, and other aspects ofpolitical correctness on American campuses.
Liberal studies professor Michael Rictenwald admittedin an interview last week that he is Deplorable NYUProfessor, a Twitter personality launched in September thatrepeatedly attacks the current political environment oncampuses.
“The trigger warning, safe spaces and bias hotline reporting isnot politically correct. It is insane,” Rictenwald said in the interview. “This stuffis producing a culture of hypervigilance, self-surveillance andpanopticism … Identity politics on campus have made aninfirmary of the whole, damn campus.”
Now, Rictenwald says his dissent has gotten him in trouble withadministrators and his fellow faculty members.
In a letter to NYU’s student paper published just two days afterRictenwald’s interview, 12 students, administrators, and facultywithin the liberal studies department denounced his statementsin no uncertain terms. Specifically, they bashed him for callingtrigger warnings “insane,” because this invalidated the experiencesof the mentally ill.
“Professor Rectenwald’s rhetoric repeatedly suggests that mentalillness invalidates the ideas and feelings of those who live withit,” the letter says. “We categorically reject such rhetoric andits stigmatizing effects. We reject, too, Professor Rectenwald’sefforts to gaslight those who would disagree with him and tosilence responses to his incendiary rhetoric by dismissing claimsbefore they are reasonably made.”
The letter also faults Rectenwald for other alleged “logicalfallacies,” ultimately condemning him as “guilty of illogic andincivility in a community that predicates its work in great part onrational thought and the civil exchange of ideas.”
The same day the letter was published, Rectenwald told the New York Post, he was summoned to ameeting with the department dean and an NYU human resourcesrepresentative.
“They claimed they were worried about me and a couple people hadexpressed concern about my mental health,” Rectenwald said. Hewas subsequently placed on leave from the classroom.
NYU, though, told the Post that Rectenwald’s suspension has“absolutely zero” to do with the opinions he expresses, despite thetiming. The school wouldn’t say what the real reason was.
In a statement to NYU Local, another student publication,spokesman Matt Nagel implied Rectenwald himself may have requested the leavehe is denouncing.
“Speaking generally, and without regard to a specificindividual, leaves of the kind you’re asking about are typicallygranted at the request of the employee, not required of theemployee,” Nagel said.
When contacted by the Local, student and Liberal StudiesStudent Council member Tiger Kneller expressed approval thatRectenwald was no longer teaching, and suggested that Rectenwald’sstatements shouldn’t be treated as protected free speech because ofhis faculty role.
“What one voices privately deserves protection, but as aprofessor, one must realize they initiate the conditions of alearning environment, and those conditions must have a basis ofsupport for all students,” Kneller said.
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