How @antipcnyuprof failed at promoting diversity of opinion
Maybe try not suggesting that thousands of students ‘jump out of their dorm windows’
Over the past week, Liberal Studies Professor Michael Rectenwald has been at the center of a heated conversation regarding political correctness and free speech at NYU. After revealing himself as the undercover persona behind the alt-right twitter account @antipcnyuprof, an avalanche of controversy followed, resulting in Rectenwald stepping away (voluntarily according to the NYU administration, under pressure from NYU according to Rectenwald himself) from his classes for the remainder of fall. But what do we really know behind the slew of contrary accusations?
Rectenwald began his anonymous existence as @antipcnyuprod with a retweet of @TrumpetingTrump’s tweet that tagged the real Rectenwald’s account, linking his “must-read essay” about, you guessed it, trigger warnings and safe spaces.
He then expanded to critiquing the election, joining the anti-Hillary ranks with the hashtag #HRCdemon.
The account’s main focus, however, remained insulting of political culture on college campus.
And pretty soon, @antipcnyuprof launched his own self-hype campaign, promising his followers dirty deets that will “blow yr mind.”
Kind of like those fan-run celebrity Instagram accounts with “OMG FOLLOW FOR JUSTIN’S HAWAII VACAY PHOTOS” as their bio, enticing you to dm and tag them twenty times in Justin’s every post so that your follow request will be accepted.
But while everyone was waiting on pins and needles for the “tell all” session, Rectenwald moved on to bigger and better things, such as hoping that “a few hundred thousand liberal totalitarians” college students would kill themselves.
Later, Rectenwald admitted that his twitter account’s aim was to “expose the ferocity with which noncomplying views expressed on social media by an anonymous academic would be attacked.” AKA, he intended @antipcnyuprof to be combative and inflammatory, thus posting insensitive content to lure responses that he considered overly sensitive and “coddled.”
Yet, Rectenwald then complained when his account received “no attempt at constructive dialogue, offering of rational counterargument or even acknowledgment of the possibility of the existence of a legitimate point of view outside of progressive orthodoxy.” Because, obviously, casual references to suicide and mocking of transgender pronouns are encouraging starting points for constructive, rational conversation…
When Dean Fred Schwarzbach published his and Rectenwald’s email correspondence (notably from Novemeber 1st, prior to the November 3rd publishing of Rectenwald’s Washington Post op-ed), the professor’s claims of being “strongly encouraged to take a paid leave of absence” seemed to fall under question.
The email exchange is not coercive, but instead unveils that Rectenwald did voluntarily uphold his decision to step away from teaching for the rest of the semester, telling the Dean that “I do intend to remain on leave and need it for the reasons discussed,” even after Schwarzbach explicitly offered “to make all the necessary arrangements to allow you to resume your classes and other duties immediately,” if Rectenwald had wanted to stay.
Granted, “politically-correct” culture, like anything else, can go overboard. But rather than being open to the idea that students can be opinionated and respectful rather than whiny and “illiberal,” @antipcnyuprof broadly demeans NYU’s efforts to facilitate healthy dialogue in favor of ignoring us and tossing us all into a rubber room.
Is @antipcnyuprof being brave and innovative? Or rather, a guide on how not to encourage diversity?
Photo courtesy of Washington Square News