|January 29, 1959
|B.A. in English Literature from the University of Pittsburgh (1983); Master's degree in English Literature from Case Western Reserve University (1997); Ph.D. in Literary and Cultural Studies from Carnegie Mellon University (2004)
|Scholar, Former Professor, Author
|view image gallery
Michael Rectenwald (born January 29, 1959) is an American scholar, former professor, and libertarian author. He is known for his critical stance on the contemporary social justice movement. In 2023, Rectenwald filed to run for President of the United States on the Libertarian ticket in the 2024 U.S. presidential election.
Early Life and Education
Rectenwald is the seventh of nine children, as stated in his 2018 memoir. He graduated cum laude from the University of Pittsburgh in 1983 with a B.A. in English literature. He continued his academic journey by earning a master's degree in English literature from Case Western Reserve University in 1997 and a Ph.D. in literary and cultural studies from Carnegie Mellon University in 2004. Remarkably, within a single year, he published three books.
Rectenwald is a distinguished fellow at Hillsdale College and has been a prominent advocate for free speech. He opposes various forms of authoritarianism and totalitarianism, including socialism-communism, "social justice," fascism, and political correctness. He has appeared on numerous major network political and talk shows, radio shows, and podcasts, discussing his views and experiences related to academia, cancel culture, and the defense of individual liberties. He emphasizes the importance of the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, as a unifying point for all Americans and as a safeguard for individual freedoms.
Rectenwald has made significant contributions to the study of secularism, particularly its origins in 19th-century British secularism, which was founded by George Jacob Holyoake in 1851. He argued that Holyoake's secularism represented an early stage of scientific naturalism and played a pivotal role in shaping modern beliefs about religion and science.
Rectenwald served as a Professor of Liberal and Global Liberal Studies at New York University (NYU) for over a decade, retiring in January 2019. In September 2016, he created the Twitter account @antipcnyuprof, where he began expressing criticisms of what he saw as excessive political correctness and social justice ideology on North American college campuses. His identity as the NYU faculty member behind the Twitter account was revealed by a student reporter for the Washington Square News, NYU's weekly student newspaper.
A controversy ensued when Rectenwald claimed in a November 3, 2016 Washington Post op-ed that he had been strongly encouraged to take a paid leave of absence by NYU Liberal Studies Dean Fred Schwarzbach. However, Schwarzbach disputed this claim by providing email correspondence between them that showed Rectenwald had requested the leave himself. Rectenwald eventually went on paid leave in September 2016.
In January 2018, Rectenwald filed a defamation lawsuit against NYU and four of its professors, alleging accusations of sexism, bullying, drug use, abusing his position as chair of a hiring committee, and physical and sexual harassment. In October 2018, Rectenwald invited Milo Yiannopoulos to speak in one of his classes, but the event was postponed due to safety concerns.
Whistleblowing and Departure from Academia
Rectenwald's departure from academia was prompted by his decision to blow the whistle on what he perceived as the rise of cancel culture and the imposition of a social justice creed as the official doctrine at NYU. He began expressing his concerns anonymously on Twitter before coming forward publicly. His actions led to a leave of absence, condemnation by the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion group within his program, and significant controversy within the academic community. Rectenwald has no regrets about speaking out and continues to advocate for free speech and intellectual diversity.
In his 2018 memoir, "Springtime for Snowflakes: Social Justice and Its Postmodern Parentage," Rectenwald offered a critical examination of contemporary social justice culture within academia. He contended that this culture had fostered authoritarianism and dogmatism in certain academic spheres.
Rectenwald currently resides in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and is committed to promoting unity among Americans through a shared respect for the Constitution and individual freedoms.
Rectenwald is the author of numerous books, including:
- Academic Writing, Real World Topics (2015)
- Global Secularisms in a Post-Secular Age (2015)
- Nineteenth-Century British Secularism: Science, Religion and Literature (2016)
- Springtime for Snowflakes: Social Justice and Its Postmodern Parentage (2018)
- Google Archipelago: The Digital Gulag and the Simulation of Freedom (2019)
- Beyond Woke (2020)
- Thought Criminal (2020)
- The Great Reset and the Struggle for Liberty (2022)