Rectenwald’s Students Share Perspectives on Postponed Yiannopoulos Talk

Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak for a class of LS students, but the event was postponed one day before.

Anna de la Rosa
Students in the Liberal Studies class in which Milo Yiannopolous was slated to speak said they were upset to hear about his visit. (Photo by Sam Klein)

Editor’s Note: Nov. 9, 2018

An earlier version of this article quoted a student, Elizabeth Rickert, who was under the impression Milo Yiannopoulos was going to speak for her class section. After this article was published, Professor Michael Rectenwald clarified with the class that Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak for a different class section, which was notified of the speaker beforehand. The article and headline have been edited to reflect this information. 

For the past couple of weeks, NYU has been abuzz with talk over British “alt-right” figure Milo Yiannopoulos’ scheduled visit to campus and its subsequent cancelation. While the NYU community has voiced its thoughts online and at school, the only ones we haven’t heard from yet are the students of the class Yiannopoulos was scheduled to visit.

Last month, NYU faced backlash when Liberal Studies professor Michael Rectenwald, who has a long history of attention grabbing stunts, scheduled Yiannopoulos — who has advocated for President Donald Trump, deporting Muslims and violence against journalists — to speak in his writing class on Halloween. NYU postponed the visit the day prior, at the request of Mayor Bill de Blasio, due to public safety reasons in regard to Halloween parades.

Rectenwald, the self-proclaimed “deplorable professor,” claims he does not necessarily endorse Yiannopoulos’ controversial views, but wanted to bring a new point of view to his classroom. Upon hearing of the scheduled visit, students in Rectenwald’s class had mixed reactions. 

“I honestly had never heard of Milo previously, so when I first heard he was coming to my class I googled him and found out that he was basically a troll who spreads extremist right wing views,” said a student who wanted to remain anonymous due to their beliefs.

After reading up on Yiannopoulos, this anonymous student began to look forward to the visit — though they were less interested in what he had to say and more intrigued by the ramifications his appearance would have on campus.

Our professor did say he intended to bring him to class in order to challenge university censorship issues, which I did agree upon,” the anonymous student said. “What he preaches is too radical and is not really argumentative. But just because something might be wrong to me, doesn’t mean it’s wrong to many other people.”

LS first-year Elizabeth Rickert was under the impression that Yiannopoulos would be speaking for her class section, but later learned that the visit was scheduled for a different section of the same LS class. During the period of time she believed she’d be hearing Yiannopoulos’ talk, she had a strong reaction.

“Honestly, I was really upset when I found out he was coming to my writing class,” she said. “I was upset for the obvious reasons — his racism, his sexism, his reputation.” 

When the talk was canceled, Rickert was relieved.

“I wasn’t really surprised when it was canceled, but I definitely felt relieved,” Rickert said. 

Rickert believes that in the future, there should be discussions between students and professors before speakers like Yiannopoulos are invited into the classroom setting. 

“I think professors could invite someone like Milo if they discussed it with their classes, the administration and anyone else who might feel strongly about it,” Rickert said. “If everyone feels comfortable with his presence, then it is a completely different story.”  

Email Anna de la Rosa at [email protected].

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