Q&A with a Deplorable NYU Professor

Michael Rectenwald, Liberal Studies clinical assistant professor, has been condemned and punished by members of the department for his controversial @antipcnyuprof twitter account.

Deplorable NYU Prof entered the Twitter-sphere with the handle @antipcnyuprof on Monday, Sept. 12. A real professor at NYU, he uses this account to argue against safe spaces, trigger warnings and the politically correct culture that imbues university settings.

His Twitter bio reads, “NYU professor exposes the viral identity politics of academia and its destruction of academic integrity.”

This “Deplorable NYU Prof,” or so he calls himself on Twitter, is actually LS Clinical Assistant Professor Michael Rectenwald, who said he wanted to go undercover among the alt-right to express his exasperation with the politically correct culture while shielding himself from social justice warriors — or SJWs, as he un-fondly calls them.

Rectenwald only labeled himself as a real, full-time NYU professor on Twitter, but he promised that once he reached 500 followers, he would reveal the corruption within higher education that stems from what he sees as liberal totalitarianism.


Washington Square News got a chance to sit down with Rectenwald before he shared the promised story of corruption online.

Washington Square News: Could you start by telling me a bit about your Deplorable NYU Professorship and @antipcnyuprof handle?

Michael Rectenwald: My contention is that this particular social-justice-warrior-left is producing the alt-right by virtue of its insanity. And because it’s doing all these things that manifest to the world, the alt-right is just eating this stuff alive. That’s why I adopted Nietzsche as the icon for the @antipcnyuprof and that’s why I said “anti-pc.” Frankly, I’m not really anti-pc. My contention is that the trigger warning, safe spaces and bias hotline reporting is not politically correct. It is insane. This stuff is producing a culture of hypervigilance, self-surveillance and panopticism.

WSN: Could you explain your feelings towards trigger warnings and safe spaces?

MR: One of the major problems of a trigger warning is this: according to trauma psychology, nobody has any idea what can trigger somebody. It’s completely arbitrary, and I don’t want to be indelicate, but let’s say a woman is raped while the guy happened to have this particular pack of gum on the table. So the woman would see this type of gum, and she’s going to feel triggered by this. Who could possibly anticipate such a thing? There is no way to anticipate just what would trigger people. As for safe spaces, I’m more ambiguous about it. I do think some people need safe spaces from different things, such as different beleaguered populations or groups who have been harassed or hounded — even murdered. People have their right to assemble as they wish. A safe space represents such an assembly. I do question their legality at some kind of state university for example, because it’s exclusionary, and that’s a public space.

WSN: How does that manifest at NYU?

MR: What happens is that the left presents its needs to the administration in universities, and the administration seizes on these opportunities to produce power and control to actually discipline the subjects under them. They don’t care what ideologies — whether it’s right, left, center. My dean two years ago — I mentioned the words trigger warning, and he snickered out loud, as if it was some foreign concept. Then last year, towards the end of the semester when we had a colloquium, he was floating the idea that they would be required on the syllabi. This is what happens. Once the administration gets it, it becomes a tool — an instrument — for them. Then they are able to compute to have more leverage and control over the curriculum, which should be faculty controlled in every university.

WSN: How do students handle this?

MR: Identity politics on campus have made an infirmary of the whole, damn campus. Let’s face it: every room is like a hospital ward. What are we supposed to do? I can’t deal with it — it’s insane. Look at the rules about Halloween costumes now. There’s a hoopla and hysteria surrounding Halloween. I tweeted something the other night about this self-surveillance — that they’re calling on people to do as reference to their Halloween costumes. It literally says “track your own online behavior” — self-surveillance. Safe spaces are turning the whole campus into an infirmary. And what do hospitals require? They require certain containment. They require a certain restriction of movement. They require surveillance. They require all of these things that I’m talking about, and that’s the problem with having a hospital as a university.

WSN: So how does this tie into Trump? Could you explain your support for him?

MR: I don’t support Trump at all. I hate him — I think he’s horrible. I’m hiding amongst the alt-right, alright? And the point is, this character is meant to exhibit and illustrate the notion that it’s this crazy social-justice-warrior-knee-jerk-reaction-triggered-happy-safe-space-seeking-blah, blah, blah, blah culture that it’s producing this alt-right. Now, I’m not dumb enough to go there. And my own politics are very strong — I’m a left communist. But I think that in fact, the crazier and crazier that this left gets, this version of the left, the more the more the alt-right is going to be laughing their asses off plus getting more pissed. Every time a speaker is booed off campus or shooed off campus because they might say something that bothers someone, that just feeds the notion that the left is totalitarian, and they have a point.

WSN: So is that where the deplorable part of your name originates?

MR: I got roped into all this when some Trump supporter retweeted something. I think Twitter is dangerous. That’s why I’m hiding this character in the alt-right, because otherwise, the social justice warriors are going to come onto me like flies, and they can be so extreme. They have these two main techniques: call out and pile on. They call out, whether it’s racism or sexism or something they don’t like, and then they pile on. It’s a nightmare. The new left has nothing to do with the historical function and historical mission on the left, which is universal human emancipation. It’s divisive. How can you have solidarity when you have all these little fissions with every little identity group with all their little niche ways of identification?

WSN: Could you talk a little about your thoughts on the entire push for diversity in general then?

MR: A cis, white, straight male like myself is guilty of something. I don’t know what. But I’m fucking sure I’m guilty of it. And I am very low on the ethical totem pole, you know? People who are doing different things, it’s like, “we are the most precious souls,” you know? The most beleaguered are the best, and the worst is the best. So there’s a one-downmanship that goes on. I despise it for the status seeking, the seeking after the most oppressed people position status that it involves, which is just utterly and completely eradicates any possibility of solidarity. But one thing I want to make clear is that I am not against diversity. What I’m against is the policing of identity that’s going on — the policing of behavior with reference to diversity. I’m not against diversity. I’m against the university using diversity as an ideology to make themselves look ethical.

WSN: If it’s not solidarity, what kind of society are we creating?

MR: This kind of left that we’re talking about: the SJW — identity-politics left — it’s not political; it’s religious. And what’s the difference? Religion individualizes, moralizes, personalizes, okay? Whereas, politics, what does it mean? Groups. Polis is a group. So by definition, politics is a group move, but this isn’t a group move at all. It always comes down to a single person. It’s absurd. You can always say that something bothers you, but I’m afraid that elimination of irritations, bother, friction and difference in opinion is utterly ineradicable and it’s part of existence. It’s part of the human existence or even you could say it’s part of the universe. And to try to create a polis or space free of that is a fool’s errand. It will end in disaster; it’s folly — pure folly and a real shame — to isolate people from that is so wrong, and it’s existentially flawed. It’s an existential error. It’s an error of the ultimate type of philosophy called being.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

A version of this article appeared in Monday, Oct. 24 print edition. Email Diamond Naga Siu at [email protected]



  1. As a full time Nurse Practitioner who teaches classes at NYU College of Nursing, I can confirm that 1) The university is nothing like a hospital and 2) this man has neither the stamina nor intellect to work in healthcare; he sounds like a sullen, pubescent boy who needs a hobby and emotional outlet.

    The alt right was not created by the PC left – rather, it is a remnant of an older time and the values they hold have been around for thousands of years – it is nothing new. People like this sap are so cowardly and afraid that the world as they know it is changing and their place is no longer assured and they might actually be held accountable for their actions as the rest of us are. They see something as simple as being asked to not dress up as a racial caricature at someone else’s expense as oppressive.

    I feel sorry for his students if this is what passes as critical thought in his classroom. A clinical assistant professor of liberal studies? Please, Michael Rectenwald, try getting a real job and real qualifications, you are a joke. People like this would never be employable outside of Academia because they cannot cut it in the real world.

  2. Hey, ‘full-time nurse practitioner:’ I’m waddling through your myriad grammatical and syntactic errors, only to laugh at your assailing Dr. Rectenwald for his ‘lack of credentials.’ Why are you libeling Dr. Rectenwald? He’s an actual scholar – he spoke at Oxford University in March, for example – and is recognized as an authority on secularism and the history of science. Dr. Rectenwald’s profile and readings are ranked in the top 1% of scholars at academia.edu. (While we’re on the topic, what are *your* credentials?)
    NYU is lucky to have a scholar like Michael Rectenwald on board. Unlike certain ‘snowflakes’ who are routinely promoted because they have selected academia as a ’boutique’ profession and/or belong to certain subaltern protected and elevated identities, Dr. Rec is the real deal.
    Lori Price
    CLG News, http://www.legitgov.org

  3. @eliana

    So, you have nothing of value to contribute to the discussion, or the contents of the article in question?
    Just a quip about his race and economic status?

    Even without touching the undertone of your racial remark (last I heard, white is also one of the many races that inhabit this wonderful planet), nor your jab at his ability to make a living, you essentially added NULL to your position.

    He makes some very excellent points in this interview. In many ways, the alt-left is actively attempting to regress many of the accomplishments and achievements we have attained, such as racial harmony and integration, for example. I mean, since when did segregation become the hallmark the left wants to work towards? We spent decades trying to remove it, and now, more than ever, the Left, with the “safe spaces”, are wanting to go back to segregation?

    And its sad seeing this “victim olympics” one-up-manship going on in our universities, with every college child pawing away at each other to be the most “victimized”. Its a race to see who is the most oppressed, because attaining that title bestows a wealth of special privileges, such as special treatment for their supposed “oppressed status”.

    Logic / Reason has taken a backseat to Feelings, and its downright manipulative. Goes to show that for such an “evolved” species, we humans still love our power plays, only this time, instead of wars or aggression, the power comes from being the most “oppressed and victimized” narcissistic individual, with each so-called . The baser instincts of our animalistic behavior for desiring power has not changed, only the means to acquire it, and its insane seeing how you so-called “intellectuals” are too wrapped up in your ideology and its myths to see the true reality.

    To be one of the “special class of the oppressed” is to be the leader of the mob. To be one who gets to decide what is right and what is wrong, with the power to punish and destroy those who dont fit their brand of worldview. Its become a fad now to scrutinize your inner self, and rack up as many oppression points as possible, so you can elevate yourself above the “herd”. To be PoC, or a woman, or transgender… or even all three, as if those things are qualifications that you are “better”.

    Your chant is nothing more than the paradox of “Unity through Diversity”, which would be a perfect slogan in George Orwell’s “1984”, similar to “War is Peace” or “Freedom is Slavery”, only scarier because it is happening in reality today, and not in some fictional novel. I suggest reading it sometime, as there is a very scary corollary to the very actions the state does in the novel to what the PC culture is doing today: Thought policing, rewriting history to fix “misquotations”, or even to change the nature of language itself, such as the whole gender pronouns, or re-defining racism from “hating / prejudicing someone based on their color or race” to this strange concept of “power + prejudice”, so you can conveniently avoid the guilt that you are essentially doing the same evil as others did before.

    So, eliana, do you have the courage to debunk or debate me on these points? Or will you instead, blurt out some illogical fallacy instead… perhaps even attack me like you have with the professor above?

    I guess it doesnt matter in the end. Like playing a game of chess with a pidgeon, its all pointless when your opponent just poops on the gameboard and strut around as if they had won the game.

  4. I find it quite cute that a 55-year-old man, who has a Ph.D. from a second-tier school and is probably tired of his job as a writing instructor at an R1 university where nobody cares about him, is turning into a sort of internet troll as he seeks excitement and possibly public speaking gigs. It would actually make a nice indie movie.

    As far as credentials are concerned, I agree with Lori Price, Dr. Rectenwald does have the necessary credentials to work in a non-tenure track position as a Clinical Assistant Professor (which, probably, is just another title for his former position as Master Teacher).

    It is also very sweet that people who try to support him talk about things like “racial harmony” in a country where structural racism is more visible than ever. Dr. Rectenwald, as a “left communist” (as opposed to a “right communist,” I guess) should be proud of garnering their support.

    But my favorite part in any story involving Dr. Rectenwald is always Ms. Price who, coincidentally, writes supportive reviews for anything involving his sad attempts to become a public figure. It is also very nice that she is the only person who likes his book on Facebook. I see nothing fishy here.

  5. Jason Andrews: Who are you? What are *your* credentials? Where do *you* teach? LOL. Dr. Rectenwald was invited to speak at Oxford University in March 2016, and has numerous scholarly books and articles. Apparently, you missed this one, for example: ‘Secularism and the cultures of nineteenth-century scientific naturalism’ https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-for-the-history-of-science/article/secularism-and-the-cultures-of-nineteenth-century-scientific-naturalism/3F6655169ADBF69052E72D431FD6AFFD#.
    Take a look at that abstract. If you were born all over again, you couldn’t write on that level.
    Lori Price

  6. Ms Price,

    To begin with, I said he does have the credentials for the job he currently has. I guess you misread it. Also, I did not miss it. This is his only article that has been cited in other publications. None of his other work, except for a book he co-edited, has been cited by anyone. In other words, they had almost no impact. This one was cited four times, twice by other scholars, and twice in his own publications. What I am capable of writing has nothing to do with this conversation, but thank you for your expert opinion.

    Also, in the academia, when you say a person was invited to speak at an institution, it implies an invited lecture. Dr Rectenwald simply presented a paper at a symposium, as hundreds of people do at any major university campus on any given day.

  7. My thirty years in college teaching tell me PC is both a reality, with dynamics much as described in the interview, and a boogeyman created by and serving the worldview of the right, who would like to present themselves as besieged. The telling thing is, it’s never really defined, and a survey of how it’s actually used (always pejorative) shows it’s actually a composite of opposites: 1) ideological repression and restriction of normal speech (and thought) via the regulatory power of universities. That is, an act of power (and women and minorities do enjoy more power in universities than outside them, though it would be grossly inaccurate to suggest they rule).

    The other meaning is quivering cognitive weakness, inability to encounter normal views, and thus the need for safe spaces. Note that this is the feminine opposite of the masculine fascism above. “PC” is thus the abominable hermaphroditic union of womanish weakness with mannish force. The combination of women and power is as scary to toxic and fragile masculinity as a black man in a white house has been to white privilege.

  8. This might be a first, I actually agree with a self proclaimed Left Communist. He is correct that the alt-Left (Progressive-Left) created an imbalance that was filled by the alt-Right (Progressive-Right).

    Progressivism is not what most people believe it to be; progressing toward the future. US History is clear that Progressivism is the form of Marxist ideology that arose in the USA starting in the late 1800s/early 1900s which was used with the Democrats plantation ideology of the time. It gave us Jim Crow laws as well as Progressive President Wilson who segregated the federal government with the assistance of Bernays & Lippmann with their methods of propaganda. It also gave us KKK Hugo Black on SCOTUS as well as denying MLK & Cassius Clay their Constitutional Rights and basic human rights.

  9. This situation is so complex, because it not only deals with age old politics in the education system, from grade school on up to higher learning institutions (just read up on the history of how the rich and elite bribed the medical schools to teach only pharma related medicine…very interesting situation and one of many types of bribes at the higher learning institutions), but it also deals with people concerned with loosing their jobs, professors being overly concerned with what others will think of them ( I am a teacher), and basically the age old situation where people will justify what they know is wrong to save self. The rest that hasn’t been talked about goes back to the parenting of these “children” who are now in college. I have dealt with those parents now for over ten years. Before the gen x generation of parenting, things were smooth during my first 26 years of teaching. I had ONE issue with a parent in the entire 26 years. Today? Almost every parent (mostly the moms). That generation is from hell. They yell, they spout about things they know nothing about, they blame, they will try to get people fired for no reason, they are simply from hell. I am not surprised that we can no longer fill teaching positions and schools are beginning to close. The millennials won’t go into the profession and we can’t replace retiring teachers. The ones that DID go into the profession are only lasting 2.5 years average, citing the #1 reason for leaving are the parents and children’s unruly behavior.

    It has been deemed by the researchers that the millennials will have a HUGE increase of mental illness in their 20’s because of this scenario. Very sad. I have spent enormous amounts of time talking with my students about this, and it helps greatly. The parents don’t like me much, but I could care less. They are ruining their children, and they seem to not care. They care more about how they are viewed, having control, and pushing people around without due diligence on their part to become educated. I call them “takers” and “spouters.” I am very thankful that I am almost done with this hellish situation. I can’t imagine what the kids 20 years from now will have available to them at this rate as the schools are closing. Private school and home schooling is what will have to take place. Or, extremely large classrooms as we have never seen before. But, the teachers won’t teach that type of class. It’s already too difficult with the mouthy millennials. I have seen teachers dropping out like flies.

    The gen x group have some type of mental illness imo, and I have kept up on the research of what has happened to the Millennial’s brain development because of gen x parenting, as well as keeping up on the current societal trends and high tech intrusion on youngsters synapses and their perception of reality. (This affects older people as well). There is a total lack of connection in our society, and the current PC demands mixed with the naricssistic and/or borderline personalities of the gen x parents (passed down to the millennial’s) has created a noose for all teachers at any level. It is more than disturbing and the kids are so unhappy. They have no resilience to deal with basic life. Mom and dad handed EVERYTHING to these kids, and the message was, “you aren’t able, so I’ll do it for you,” even if that wasn’t the original intent. Just a few weeks ago they came out with the results from research on this situation and the effect on society. It isn’t good. The frontal cortex didn’t develop properly in the millennials and the chance of mental illness is off the charts, beginning in their 20’s. These are the future leaders, these pc brats. I don’t blame them yet. I still blame their parents. But, at some point, I will be blaming them for not taking responsiblity for their own choices of being disrespectful, meaning…they will need many years of therapy in order to change their brains. We are in grave trouble, and if this continues, we will have nothing of value in this country. Nothing. It is difficult for me to wrap my head around the selfishness of the generation x and what they have caused. I am not foolish enough to think that it didn’t start long before that and that there wasn’t a progression throughout the history of mankind, but this is the WORST generation at accepting responsibility for what they have caused.

    The worst part of this? Teachers and professors have no voice any longer. When I saw “shrieking girl,” and all the other ridiculous brats at Yale voicing their opinions and snapping their fingers to avoid possible triggers, I just realized….”I am done with this.”
    I want nothing more to do with our society, to be honest. It is a sheer embarrassment, that these types of young adults will be our future leaders. And it is a REAL embarrassment that Yale didn’t kick that girl to the curb, and keep the professors instead. We have people bombing, driving planes into buildings, blowing up whatever whenever wherever, we have 1 in 5 kids starving in America, we have mega economic and political issues…on and on….and we are discussing a safe place and triggers over Halloween costumes? My God…let me OFF this sinking ship. Shame on Yale. Shame on Eliana above for bringing racism into this argument (another millennial spouter, I’m fairly sure), shame on NYU for selling out as did Yale, basically forcing very intelligent minds to leave the educational institutions, all the while, keeping disrespectful, loud foul mouthed brats in higher institutions that don’t know how to think critically in the least, and shame on the SUPPOSED teacher at NYU above, “Nurse who tells it like it is,” for shaming a fellow teacher that is simply trying to expose the insane issues that are going on in the last decade or so, if not the last 20 years. I don’t think I believe that she really teaches there, or she is a young Millennial that is new. Her attitude is not that of a seasoned professional with years of experience and knowledge of the inner politics. She writes like a child, not someone that would be teaching at NYU. BUT, seeing that they put this guy on leave for expressing THE TRUTH, I suppose that they might be so foolish as to hire such a ding bat.
    God help America, seriously, because we are in trouble with these dumbed down idiots that can’t read The Great Gatsby without being triggered. Just one of MANY ridiculous examples of the fragile mental state of young people today. I am disgusted by these young people and their parents. Keep the professors and throw out the kids and bring in the strong minded youngsters that know what it means to be a human being. It isn’t all roses and comfort. Deal with it, and change it from the inside out. Not the other way around.

  10. Not a single student of mine has ever, ever asked for a trigger warning. I have been teaching since 1993. One student had an issue with an addiction memoir, but it ended up being nothing. There are some real academic freedom issues for sure, but no one is “triggered by The Great Gatsby. That is a straw man argument.

  11. Not a single student of mine has ever, ever asked for a trigger warning. I have been teaching since 1993. One student had an issue with an addiction memoir, but it ended up being nothing. There are some real academic freedom issues for sure, but no one is “triggered” by The Great Gatsby. That is a straw man argument.

  12. Oh liberals….

    “Comments that are deemed spam or hate speech by the moderators will be deleted.”

    “Speak your mind”

    Speak your mind as long as we the moderators are not offended.

    1984 is now not a dystopian novel but a text book.

  13. I have taught quite sensitive topics at universities in North America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, and had little to no problem. Anyone who claims that students “can’t read The Great Gatsby without being triggered” should reconsider their pedagogical skills and approaches.

  14. Our kids graduated from NYU ~15 years ago. They felt comfortable enough but laughed at how NYU had a perceived target demographic that pointedly did NOT take for granted that you came there by merit, especially as a person of color.

    Institutions have cultures that are shaped by the backgrounds and tribes that people come from. It is foolish to pretend that identity politics only arrived at NYU recently, with people who didn’t care for the old ideologies.

    The good professor might talk to some of his colleagues in the social sciences before he declares the school has gone to Hell.

  15. “They have these two main techniques: call out and pile on. They call out, whether it’s racism or sexism or something they don’t like, and then they pile on. It’s a nightmare. ”

    If you want an echo chamber where no one disagrees with you. go find one.
    Racism/etc aren’t something people “don’t like”, treating people with dignity and fairness is one of the most fundamental moral imperatives that exists. It’s embarrassing that someone can be so ignorant as to basic game theory, if you commit crimes against communities you can expect communities to want to respond, if you can’t take the heat get out of the kitchen.

    “The new left has nothing to do with the historical function and historical mission on the left, which is universal human emancipation. It’s divisive.”

    First off he’s inherently disingenuous by talking about “new left”, there’s nothing new about the transformation process of creating a just world, attempting to treat people with lovingkindness and dignity, that’s literally the message of countless religions (of course an ivory tower professor wouldn’t know much about practically applying radical love to daily life if it bit them on the arse, they’re too busy being smug.

    As a scientist I have to disagree, divisive politics do in fact work, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X helped usher in a wide variety of civil rights. Gays had their various riots and acts of civil disobedience (glitter bombing), there are countless examples of this working so he’s dead wrong, and just using his emotions to argue instead of scientific evidence like a rational person.

    “it’s not political, it’s religious”

    What a fool, only an academic would ever separate the two. Ethics are cornerstones of many disciplines, it’s embarrassing to just cherry pick one to slander his critics by pretending like they’re cultists just because white supremacy is such an obvious explanation for so many things, “golly gee those kids sure sound like a cult for pointing out the obvious” Good job.

    “Religion individualizes, moralizes, personalizes, okay?”

    No, religion is a persons connection to a god or higher power.

    “You can always say that something bothers you, but I’m afraid that elimination of irritations, bother, friction and difference in opinion is utterly ineradicable and it’s part of existence.”

    Wow that is some blatant slippery slope fallacious thinking, get your head down from the clouds and join us in reality.

  16. Kevin, you say many great things but you are wrong about who this poor guy is. At the age of 55, he is a clinical assistant professor, which is basically a fancier name for writing instructor. He is in a dark corner in the basement of the ivory tower, if he is there at all. This is why he tries so hard to gain some fame and get a nicer position elsewhere.

    The actual occupants of the ivory tower, on the other hand, include leading leftist scholars. In other words, this poor guy is not smug because he is in the ivory tower. He is angry because he sees all the brilliant lesbians, African Americans, Indians, Asian Americans, Latinxs around him who define contemporary scholarship in the humanities, are respected a lot more than him, and also earn much more than he does.

  17. This is incredibly interesting. I think the people objecting are conflating R’s objection to intolerance– and the cynical way that intolerance is deployed by overpaid administrators– with bigotry. To say that opposing views should not be made ‘illegal’ is not a de facto embrace of all unpopular positions.

    I happen to think that things like harassment and physical assault are more than ‘irritations’ on a campus, but this is lost in a bloated platform that won’t distinguish the violent from the tasteless.

    Have the campus Maoists never read a book? Do they realize that Trump is stepping over the 1st amendment in exactly the same way, threatening to sue/ fire/ throw out/ lock up his critics?

    Here’s something: Students, administrators, do you realize to what extent you are all traumatizing and triggering political refugees all over the United States? This is a real thing. Actual, real people whose family members were executed, or who were themselves found guilty for “the content and structure of [their] thinking” (shame on you, idiot faculty, for your total lack of historical perspective).

    I’m scared of all those who celebrate mobs, speak with violent hyperbole, and have boiled a vast intellectual universe down to a few signifiers. What a loss to never feel disoriented, to never pick up a book without knowing first whether the author has the “correct” ideology.

    “One of the most ugly aspects of life in Communist China during the Mao Zedong era was the Party’s demand that people inform on each other routinely and denounce each other during political campaigns. This practice had a profoundly destructive effect on human relationships. Husbands and wives became guarded with each other, and parents were alienated from their children. The practice inhibited all forms of human contact, so that people no longer wanted to have friends. It also encouraged secretiveness and hypocrisy. To protect himself, a man had to keep his thoughts to himself. When he was compelled to speak, often lying was the only way to protect himself and his family.”

    ― Nien Cheng, Life and Death in Shanghai

  18. Could you please present data supporting your claim that political refugees find campus diversity initiatives triggering?

    To use an example from this disillusioned old white man’s Twitter account, why would a political refugee find it problematic that a university would discourage students from doing blackface or Native American drag on Halloween? Because they think the history of slavery and segregation have lost their relevance? Because they think if a population has already been massacred and their resources have been stolen, their cultures can as well be mocked despite their vocal objections?

    I have had the opportunity to work with many political refugees in different parts of the world, and none of them perceived diversity initiatives (or in this case calls for basic respect) as an attack on their own experiences. Many of them were perfectly capable of seeing how different forms of violence and oppression worked in ways that are connected. There were a few who did not care. But I never met anyone who was traumatized or triggered by the attempts to create a more nurturing campus environment for racial or ethnic minorities, queers or survivors of rape. I would be grateful if you could recommend readings to support your research. I would also be happy to use them in my classes.

  19. Jackie,

    You say, “He is angry because he sees all the brilliant lesbians, African Americans, Indians, Asian Americans, Latinxs around him who define contemporary scholarship in the humanities, are respected a lot more than him, and also earn much more than he does.”

    By giving us a list of races and genders and sexual orientation to make your case you have inadvertently proven Prof. Rectenwald’s point that value is now gleaned by adding up game points for just that: race, gender and sexual orientation. You did not specify any actual achievements of the professors you place above Prof. Rectenwald. Rather, you specified race, gender and sexual orientation as if those were proxies for academic achievement. I assure you, they are not.

    As for the type of scholarship produced by people who think that race, gender and orientation dictate every thrust of life, well, it’s not that compelling. It was interesting and original 30 years ago to read and write about a text through the prism of race, gender and orientation. But now it’s same old, same old. There is nothing original left to say about this and if there is, then nobody in academia has found it yet. Accordingly, what you think is scintillating scholarship has essentially become hackwork. It’s produced by people playing it safe and feeding the institute what’s currently fashionable and desired.

    Scholarship should build upon and advance a body of knowledge, but to advance on thought one must think differently and that is decidedly not allowed because people of your ilk conceive of scholarship the way fundamentalists do religion; that is, you regard differing thought to be blasphemy.

    Also, it’s no small coincidence that your argument is little more than a personal insult to Prof. Rectenwald. You have been trained to evaluate phenomena in strictly personal terms (ie, personal, physical attributes of race, gender and orientation), such that you are incapable of evaluating Prof. Rectenwald’s argument in any other way but personal terms.

    Lastly, while I don’t know if he teaches writing courses or not, let me say that if he does it is admirable. I have taught Freshmen Comp and it was the most demanding of any class I’ve ever taught. It takes more time and energy to grade composition papers and lead a student to better writing than it does to teach a literature course and comment on how well the student’s paper reflects the content of your lectures. It also takes an enormous energy and originality to keep the kids engaged. There are no texts to rely on and it’s all on you, the instructor, to excite the student’s mind. This appears to be something Professor Rectenwald is very talented at doing because his RateYourProf.com reviews are splendid. His students say that they learn under him and that’s no small thing.

  20. Dear Former Adjunct at Whatever Third Tier College,

    This is not the only or first article about Dr Rectenwald and his heartbreaking attempt to secure his place at NYU by using the discourse of academic freedom at a critical time for US politics. Hence I did not see the necessity to repost the list of scholars that were available in the comments section of the other articles.

    As most members of the NYU community are well aware, the university is known for its successful academics of minority backgrounds, including Arjun Appadurai, Elaine Freedgood, Diana Taylor, Carolyn Dinshaw, Una Chaudhuri, Lisa Duggan, Chris Straayer, Gayatri Gopinath, and many others. They are all leading intellectuals in their fields. Unlike Dr Rectenwald, who has been cited less than some grad students I worked with, these people’s work have been cited hundreds or in some cases thousands of times by other scholars. This is enough to demonstrate how they have shaped academic debates on the national and international level. My argument, as anyone with basic reading comprehension skills would understand, was that witnessing the academic and professional success of these brilliant individuals was probably too hard for Dr Rectenwald and he was trying to cope with his frustration by attributing their success (and his failure) to identity politics on campus.

    Again, as anyone with basic reading comprehension skills would notice, my comment had nothing to do with “the type of scholarship produced by people who think that race, gender and orientation dictate every thrust of life.” Thanks for this brilliant example of a straw man argument though.

    Lastly, would you mind sharing where you taught Freshmen Comp? I would hate to see anyone I know wasting their money or time on a school that employs people who think RateYourProf.com is a reliable indicator of teaching success.

  21. Since you mentioned “playing it safe and feeding the institute what’s currently fashionable and desired,” here is a concrete example. Secularisms, edited by Ann Pellegrini (a prominent queer scholar at NYU, who supposedly owes her career to identity politics on campus) and Janet Jacobsen (Duke UP, 2008) has been cited 122 times while Global Secularisms in a Post-Secular Age, edited by Michael Rectenwald, Rochelle Almeida, and George Levine (de Gruyter, 2015) has been cited three times. Given that their themes are quite similar, I would love to hear what makes the Rectenwald, Almeida, and Levine book so edgy and different as opposed to the supposedly mainstream and formulaic Pellegrini and Jacobsen book that so few people could appreciate it.

  22. I taught Frosh Comp at Columbia University as a TA and it was there that I learned how freaking hard it is to motivate students in such a dry, grinding course that no kid actually wants to take it. Then I taught at Rutgers and Seton Hall where I had a fuller load of courses but still had to teach Frosh Comp because both schools had a policy of making every prof in the Eng Dept. teach at least one section of Frosh Comp a year so that they’d be forced to keep their feet on the ground. Would that your institutions did the same. Perhaps then, you would not be such elitist, snobbish assholes who have no clue that your claim to “caring about the oppressed” is predicated on putting others down. How can you not see the irony that your pc values of social justice are at odds with pissing on people whom you suspect of having attended or teaching at lower ranked schools? You are worse than intellectual hacks, you are hypocrites. Go ahead, defend your snobbery against a school like Rutgers which may not be top tier but enrolls a phenomenal number of low income black students from NJ, as well as working class kids from NJ. Please, enlighten me as to your defense of your snobbery.

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