This article previously indicated that Michael Rectenwald, an adjunct professor in the Liberal Studies program at NYU who came to prominence with his Deplorable NYU Prof Twitter account, would be placed on the LS tenure track. This was erroneously reported. There are no tenured positions for faculty in the Liberal Studies program; Rectenwald was simply receiving a promotion to full-time professorship. We regret the error. —Alex Bazeley, Editor-in-Chief
Michael Rectenwald, also known as @antipcnyuprof, received full-time professorship after previously telling WSN that he feared the paid leave would affect his promotion. He formerly called himself “Deplorable NYU Prof” on Twitter, but he recently changed it to “Contemptible Prof.”
Deputy Director for Media Relations James Devitt said that this process has been underway for some months, and he was one of 18 professors who also received a promotion.
“He received an expected promotion to the rank of clinical professor in accordance with our regular procedures,” Devitt said. “It is customary for such promotions to go forward even when a faculty member requests and chooses to take leave, as is the case here.”
He also said that now nearly 20 faculty in the Liberal Studies department — including Rectenwald — hold this position.
WSN reached out to all the clinical and assistant clinical professors in the department, and many of them declined to comment or did not respond — stating they did not have tenure and therefore did not have the job security to do so. Others opted to only comment on academic freedom and its relationship with freedom of speech.
“I simply fail to see how maintaining safe spaces and offering trigger warnings compromises academic freedom,” one LS professor said in an email, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “If there is a threat to academic freedom, it’s the [presidential] administration we just elected and the views it has already expressed about higher education and the free press.”
Only LS clinical professor Patricio Navia responded on the record, and Navia said that he and Rectenwald have been colleagues for many years but are not close friends due to their different research interests and subsequent limited contact. However, he said he believes that people have the right to express their views.
“Freedom of expression is important and must be protected,” Navia said. “In fact, freedom of expression protection only matters when people have controversial things to say. Nobody would invoke freedom of expression protection when they only say nice things about everyone. Freedom of expression matters when others might feel offended by what you have to say.”
Navia said that in conversation, people can make an effort to word things nicely; however he said that with Twitter’s emphasis on brevity, that sometimes is not possible.
“In 140 characters, the need to be brief often leads to writing things in a way that others feel offended,” Navia said. “Our Twitter feed is not a part of our academic record yet. I am glad NYU does not take our political views into account when deciding on promotion.”
Navia expressed similar viewpoints to Rectenwald’s regarding safe spaces and trigger warnings — Navia said that speaking about safe spaces is not safe for him.
“For people who want safe spaces, Twitter is not the best fit, just as a steakhouse is not the best fit for vegans,” Navia said. “So, if you want safe spaces, just block people on Twitter. But if you learn how to use Twitter, you might even end up running for president.”
He thinks that if universities are designed to prepare people for the real world, safe spaces cannot be guaranteed to students in all circumstances, especially on platforms not controlled by NYU.
Email Diamond Naga Siu at [email protected]