The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
[UPDATE: NYU has posted a response, which includes two e-mails from Dean Fred Schwarzbach, and one from Michael Rectenwald. The e-mail from Rectenwald reflects that Rectenwald refused an offer to rescind the leave; and the e-mails from the Dean assert that Rectenwald's account is more broadly incorrect, and that he was the one who sought the leave (though Rectenwald's e-mail stands by his story). "We don't give leaves or sanctions because of people's Twitter feeds," the Dean writes.
I'll look into this further, but in the meantime, on reflection, I realize that I let what I try to be my usual skepticism lapse here. Whether or not the original Rectenwald account ultimately proves to be right, my apologies to my readers and to NYU for not having investigated this adequately.]
New York University professor Michael Rectenwald writes today in The Post online about his experiences; an excerpt from "Here's what happened when I challenged the PC campus culture at NYU":
I'm not a conservative, or an alt-righter. I find Donald Trump repugnant. But over the last couple of weeks, I've become a campus pariah to some (and a hero, perhaps, to a few) in my nontenured NYU faculty job, thanks to the humorless, Social Justice Warrior-brand of campus culture run amok and a misunderstanding about a Twitter account. Enmeshed in a conspiracy—thinly disguised as sympathy—of my colleagues' design, I've lost my academic freedom and I potentially stand to lose my appointment.
Last month, NYU's senior vice president of student affairs, Marc Wais, sent an email to the campus community to announce that an on-campus appearance by right-wing Internet provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos had been canceled by the administration. I believe universities should debate bad ideas, not ban them, and I vocally opposed this development.
Around the same time, I created a Twitter account, @antipcnyuprof, complete with Nietzsche avatar and "Deplorable" screen name, as a thought experiment. It allowed me to tweet in the guise of an alt-righter while drawing out the predictable, censorious responses of so-called progressives, self-appointed thought police at NYU and elsewhere who have, in the name of maintaining a culture of civility on campus, policed their little corner of the Twittersphere. Beyond NYU, we just marked a Halloween where, with almost comic predictability, the politically correct campus thought police, like some dystopian pre-crime bureau, have prompted students to report on peers for wearing offensive Halloween attire.
Check out the Twitter feed and see just what it takes to get the campus speech police riled up, and see also the the letter from various colleagues condemning Rectenwald. Very troubling to see how deep the intolerance of dissenting ideas in the academy has gone.