The ongoing saga of the now-infamous Deplorable NYU Prof, Michael Rectenwald, has taken yet another turn. In his recent op-ed for the Washington Post, he explicitly stated that NYU had paid to silence him, yet this was quickly proven to be false when NYU released a copy of the email correspondence between Rectenwald and Liberal Studies Dean Fred Schwarzbach. The conversation revealed that his previous comments were inaccurate, and that university officials had never forced him to take a leave of absence. In light of this discovery, NYU officials have stated that they are ending his self-imposed leave and expect him to return to classes immediately.
Washington Square News and many other news organizations have recently covered the topic of political correctness and free speech as it relates to Rectenwald, but his behavior has gone beyond the provocative into the defamatory. Whether or not Rectenwald’s grievances were valid, his integrity has been challenged by the inaccuracy of his own narrative. His false allegations are evidence that he is not a misunderstood victim, but a hypocrite.
Rectenwald told the world in not one, but two different pieces that he was forced into paid leave by the university. He has created a storyline that is entirely different and contradictory to that of the truth, which suggests his willingness to deceive the public and slander NYU. What he has shown is that there is a clear lack of respect for his employer, his colleagues and perhaps most importantly, his students. Since his Q&A two weeks ago, the NYU community has been rife with controversy over his status at the university. His fellow professors in the Liberal Studies department spoke out against him in a particularly venomous op-ed. And students have been aggravated after the cancellation of all of his classes through a curt email from the Liberal Studies office that did not provide any explanation or disclaimer. Rectenwald’s students are being denied the education they have paid for, which is unacceptable.
One should not need to look at Rectenwald’s Twitter feed to find fault in his actions. The dissonance between his public and private statements is incontrovertible at this point. However, the administration’s decision to withdraw his paid leave if he cannot present a consistent narrative is appropriate. Rectenwald’s shameful actions should not distract from the greater conversation about PC campus culture, and we cannot allow our respective opinions to color our judgement of him. Given his success as a professor — and in consideration of his students — the sooner Rectenwald returns to classes, the better. To fire him would only serve to fuel his self-righteous indignation and would deprive his students of the education that they were promised.
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