The Portland State University professor who resigned with a scathing public letter has spoken out in an interview, saying that he was hounded by diversity investigators and left unable to teach critical thinking.
Peter Boghossian was a full-time assistant professor of philosophy at Portland State University for 10 years until his resignation letter was published on Wednesday, calling it a ‘social justice factory’ that drives ‘intolerance of divergent beliefs’.
On Thursday night, he gave an interview with Fox News, saying the university had become a ‘dogma factory’ where free inquiry was no longer possible.
‘They weaponized officers of diversity, equity, and inclusion,’ said Boghossian.
‘They have these mechanisms in place in the university to enforce certain speech codes against dissident professors, against anyone who questions or challenges what is morally fashionable,’ he went on.
Former professor Peter Boghossian (right) said Portland State had become a ‘dogma factory’ where free inquiry was no longer possible
‘I’ve been accused of microaggression when I asked for the evidence for microaggressions,’ he continued. ‘Microaggressions’ refers to acts of subtle and possibly unintentional discrimination.
‘I’ve been accused of microaggressions when I asked — by colleagues and by students — when I asked for the evidence for policies about trigger warnings. Why should there be a trigger warning on the syllabus?’ he continued.
Boghossian’s letter was addressed to Portland State’s Provost Susan Jeffords.
‘What is the evidence that safe spaces are helpful to students? Even asking for evidence was a micro-aggression. See, you’ve created a culture where even asking questions about things is viewed as a violation. It has become a dogma factory,’ said Boghossian.
‘Having conversations is impossible. Having robust debates about certain topics is impossible,’ the former professor went on.
‘So think about the injustice we are doing to our students when we are creating these large ecosystems that don’t allow that. They don’t allow questioning, they don’t allow challenging. So students are particularly brittle when they hear the other side of the debate,’ he said.
‘I believe very strongly that we have to be taught by people who actually believe things. I believe there should be a Marxist in an economics department. I believe there should be a Friedman-ite in an economics department. I believe there should be intellectual diversity and we give students tools to ask difficult questions and we are not doing that,’ said Boghossian.
Boghossian on Wednesday shared his resignation letter with Bari Weiss, a former New York Times columnist who quit her role at the paper after claiming to encounter the same refusal to consider non-liberal ideas that Boghossian describes at PSU.
Boghossian has since received support for his letter from conservative personalities, including podcast host and former TV host Megyn Kelly, comedian Rob Schneider, Fox commentator Tammy Bruce and historian Niall Ferguson.
Fox News commentator Tammy Bruce called Boghossian ‘one of the heroes among us’
Historian Niall Ferguson described Boghossian’s open letter as ‘devastating’
Comedian Rob Schneider also pledged support for Boghossian
At the same time, Boghossian is wondering why outlets he considers to be liberal media like NPR and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow haven’t asked him to speak.
‘I’ve been deluged with requests to appear on conversative [sic] media regarding my resignation from PSU,’ he tweeted.
‘And yet, I don’t consider myself a conservative. I’ve received zero requests for interviews with liberal media.’
Boghossian said in his letter that college staff were abdicating their ‘truth seeking mission’ and instead driving intolerance of ‘divergent reliefs’ by squashing any view that was not liberal.
‘Students at Portland State are not being taught to think. Rather, they are being trained to mimic the moral certainty of ideologues,’ he wrote.
Boghossian is wondering why outlets he considers to be liberal media like NPR and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow haven’t asked him to speak
Boghossian previously penned a collection of hoax papers and submitted them to academic journals to prove that they would print anything that went along with their ideals, even if the theories in them were fake.
They included papers on dog rape and an adaptation to Hitler’s Mein Kampf. The left reacted badly to it, saying he’d wasted editors’ time.
Boghossian says he was harassed on campus with swastikas written on bathroom walls with his name next to them, purely because he had challenged the university’s ideas.
He claims that at one time flyers went around campus depicting him with a Pinocchio nose, that he was spit on and that colleagues told students not to take his class.
In a statement to DailyMail.com, a spokesman for the university said: ‘Portland State has always been and will continue to be a welcoming home for free speech and academic freedom.
‘Portland State has always been and will continue to be a welcoming home for free speech and academic freedom. We believe that those practices are not in conflict with our core institutional values of student success; racial justice and equity; and proactive engagement with our community. As with all personnel matters, we have no comment on Dr. Boghossian’s statement of resignation.’
Portland State University spokesperson
‘We believe that those practices are not in conflict with our core institutional values of student success; racial justice and equity; and proactive engagement with our community.
‘As with all personnel matters, we have no comment on Dr. Boghossian’s statement of resignation.’
‘Those who asked for evidence to justify new institutional policies were accused of microaggressions.
‘And professors were accused of bigotry for assigning canonical texts written by philosophers who happened to have been European and male,’ he wrote.
Boghossian says the university failed to take action after a tenured professor interrupted his discussion with author Christina Hoff Sommers and evolutionary biologists Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying in March 2018.
He also said activists pulled speaker wires from one of his panels and that someone triggered a fire alarm at another.
Boghossian, in his resignation letter, also describes how university administrators investigated him in 2017 after receiving a complaint under Title XI – which protects against gender or sex based discrimination – from a man.
He said he was informed by students who were interviewed for the investigation that they were asked if he’d ever beat his wife or kids.
Boghossian worked at Portland State University as an assistant professor in the philosophy department. The university has not commented on his claims
In the end, the investigation found that his accuser’s claims were unsubstantiated.
Boghossian says the harassment became worse when he produced a series of hoax papers in an effort to prove that academic journals would print them without checking, so long as they seemed to align with left-wing views.
Boghossian, in his resignation letter, also describes how university administrators investigated him in 2017 after receiving a complaint under Title XI – which protects against gender or sex based discrimination – from a man
From 2017 to 2018, the trio wrote 20 papers with absurd premises related to social justice. Four of them were eventually published in reputable journals.
The’ study was meant to ‘reboot’ conversations around topics like gender, race and sexuality, the authors wrote in Aero Magazine.
‘We undertook this project to study, understand, and expose the reality of grievance studies, which is corrupting academic research,’ they said.
Among their works was an article in Cogent Social Sciences that alleged penises were the product of the human mind and responsible for climate change.
Their papers included the phrases ‘gender-performative, high fluid social construct’, ‘exclusionary to disenfranchised communities’, and ‘isomorphic to performative toxic masculinity’.
Boghossian says the university accused him of ‘not receiving approval to experiment on human subjects’ after the trio was found out by reporters at the Wall Street Journal, cutting their hoax short.
‘Shortly thereafter, swastikas in the bathroom with my name under them began appearing in two bathrooms near the philosophy department.
‘They also occasionally showed up on my office door, in one instance accompanied by bags of feces.
‘Our university remained silent.
‘When it acted, it was against me, not the perpetrators.’
HOAX PAPERS SUBMITTED TO ACADEMIC JOURNALS TO PROVE THEY’LL ACCEPT ANYTHING THEY AGREE WITH
Peter Boghossian, along with James Lindsay and Helen Pluckrose, published 20 papers based on fake theories like dog rape in an effort to prove how academic journals would publish anything they agreed with.
They used buzz words to get them over-the-line.
One paper, published in Gender, Place & Culture, claimed to be based on a year observing sexual misconduct among dogs in a US park.
The paper said that parks were ‘petri dishes for canine ‘rape culture” and said people needed to be aware of the way dogs were treated depending on their gender.
The year before they had published a paper called ‘The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct,’ in the journal Cogent Social Sciences.
Another paper published in the journal Fat Studies claimed that body building is ‘fat-exclusionary’.
They published a paper in the Journal of Poetry Therapy was about feminist spirituality meetings. It was written by an algorithm.
Another paper published in peer-reviewed journal ‘Affilia’ was a rewrite of a chapter from Mein Kampf which was accepted despite going through a double peer review.
The authors claim their prank shows that higher education’s fixation with identity politics has created ‘absurd and horrific’ scholarship.
But critics said he operated in bad faith and wasted academics’ time.
He also described a Title IX investigation against him in the 2016-2017 school year, when a student seemed to have accused Boghossian of beating his wife.
‘My accuser, a white male, made a slew of baseless accusations against me, which university confidentiality rules unfortunately prohibit me from discussing further. What I can share is that students of mine who were interviewed during the process told me the Title IX investigator asked them if they knew anything about me beating my wife and children.
‘This horrifying accusation soon became a widespread rumor,’ he wrote.
‘Universities can enforce ideological conformity just through the threat of these investigations.’
Title IX is a 1972 civil rights law that prevents discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.
Boghossian’s resignation comes as a slew of school teachers and college professors leave the classroom over similar complaints of a monolithic culture that leaves no room for debate.
Last month, Laura Morris quit in an emotional address at the Loudoun County School Board, where she explained why the ‘equity trainings’ and political dogma forced her to resign.
She said she could no longer be part of an organization that told her ‘white, Christian, able-bodied females’ needed to be reined in.
‘This summer I have struggled with the idea of returning to school, knowing that I’ll be working yet again with a school division that, despite its shiny tech and flashy salary, promotes political ideologies that do not square with who I am as a believer in Christ,’ she said.
At $50,000-a-year Dalton in New York City, it was parents who made the first move.
‘Every class this year has had an obsessive focus on race and identity, “racist cop” reenactments in science, “de-centering whiteness” in art class, learning about white supremacy and sexuality in health class,’ parents of students at the private school wrote in a letter in April.
The head of the school, Jim Best, later resigned.
Some professors have complained that their school are not progressive enough, like when star professor Cornell West resigned from Harvard Divinity School in a letter in July.
West accused the university of denying him a tenured position because of ‘the Harvard administration’s hostility to the Palestinian cause,’ which he supports.
‘We all know the mendacious reasons given had nothing to do with academic standards,’ he wrote.
‘My university sacrificed ideas for ideology’: Read the terrifying testimony of how Portland State University’s cancel culture – obsessed with race and gender – drove a philosophy professor out because he would not conform
by Peter Boghossian
This letter first ran on Bari Weiss’s Common Sense newsletter on Substack. To subscribe, click here
Dear Provost Susan Jeffords,
I’m writing to you today to resign as assistant professor of philosophy at Portland State University.
Over the last decade, it has been my privilege to teach at the university. My specialties are critical thinking, ethics and the Socratic method, and I teach classes like Science and Pseudoscience and The Philosophy of Education. But in addition to exploring classic philosophers and traditional texts, I’ve invited a wide range of guest lecturers to address my classes, from Flat-Earthers to Christian apologists to global climate skeptics to Occupy Wall Street advocates. I’m proud of my work.
I invited those speakers not because I agreed with their worldviews, but primarily because I didn’t. From those messy and difficult conversations, I’ve seen the best of what our students can achieve: questioning beliefs while respecting believers; staying even-tempered in challenging circumstances; and even changing their minds.
I never once believed — nor do I now — that the purpose of instruction was to lead my students to a particular conclusion. Rather, I sought to create the conditions for rigorous thought; to help them gain the tools to hunt and furrow for their own conclusions. This is why I became a teacher and why I love teaching.
But brick by brick, the university has made this kind of intellectual exploration impossible. It has transformed a bastion of free inquiry into a Social Justice factory whose only inputs were race, gender, and victimhood and whose only outputs were grievance and division.
Students at Portland State are not being taught to think. Rather, they are being trained to mimic the moral certainty of ideologues. Faculty and administrators have abdicated the university’s truth-seeking mission and instead drive intolerance of divergent beliefs and opinions. This has created a culture of offense where students are now afraid to speak openly and honestly.
I noticed signs of the illiberalism that has now fully swallowed the academy quite early during my time at Portland State. I witnessed students refusing to engage with different points of view. Questions from faculty at diversity trainings that challenged approved narratives were instantly dismissed. Those who asked for evidence to justify new institutional policies were accused of microaggressions. And professors were accused of bigotry for assigning canonical texts written by philosophers who happened to have been European and male.
At first, I didn’t realize how systemic this was and I believed I could question this new culture. So I began asking questions. What is the evidence that trigger warnings and safe spaces contribute to student learning? Why should racial consciousness be the lens through which we view our role as educators? How did we decide that “cultural appropriation” is immoral?
Unlike my colleagues, I asked these questions out loud and in public.
I decided to study the new values that were engulfing Portland State and so many other educational institutions — values that sound wonderful, like diversity, equity, and inclusion, but might actually be just the opposite. The more I read the primary source material produced by critical theorists, the more I suspected that their conclusions reflected the postulates of an ideology, not insights based on evidence.
I began networking with student groups who had similar concerns and brought in speakers to explore these subjects from a critical perspective. And it became increasingly clear to me that the incidents of illiberalism I had witnessed over the years were not just isolated events, but part of an institution-wide problem.
The more I spoke out about these issues, the more retaliation I faced.
Early in the 2016-17 academic year, a former student complained about me and the university initiated a Title IX investigation. (Title IX investigations are a part of federal law designed to protect “people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.”) My accuser, a white male, made a slew of baseless accusations against me, which university confidentiality rules unfortunately prohibit me from discussing further. What I can share is that students of mine who were interviewed during the process told me the Title IX investigator asked them if they knew anything about me beating my wife and children. This horrifying accusation soon became a widespread rumor.
With Title IX investigations there is no due process, so I didn’t have access to the particular accusations, the ability to confront my accuser, and I had no opportunity to defend myself. Finally, the results of the investigation were revealed in December 2017. Here are the last two sentences of the report: “Global Diversity & Inclusion finds there is insufficient evidence that Boghossian violated PSU’s Prohibited Discrimination & Harassment policy. GDI recommends Boghossian receive coaching.”
Not only was there no apology for the false accusations, but the investigator also told me that in the future I was not allowed to render my opinion about “protected classes” or teach in such a way that my opinion about protected classes could be known — a bizarre conclusion to absurd charges. Universities can enforce ideological conformity just through the threat of these investigations.
I eventually became convinced that corrupted bodies of scholarship were responsible for justifying radical departures from the traditional role of liberal arts schools and basic civility on campus. There was an urgent need to demonstrate that morally fashionable papers — no matter how absurd — could be published. I believed then that if I exposed the theoretical flaws of this body of literature, I could help the university community avoid building edifices on such shaky ground.
So, in 2017, I co-published an intentionally garbled peer-reviewed paper that took aim at the new orthodoxy. Its title: “The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct.” This example of pseudo-scholarship, which was published in Cogent Social Sciences, argued that penises were products of the human mind and responsible for climate change. Immediately thereafter, I revealed the article as a hoax designed to shed light on the flaws of the peer-review and academic publishing systems.
Shortly thereafter, swastikas in the bathroom with my name under them began appearing in two bathrooms near the philosophy department. They also occasionally showed up on my office door, in one instance accompanied by bags of feces. Our university remained silent. When it acted, it was against me, not the perpetrators.
I continued to believe, perhaps naively, that if I exposed the flawed thinking on which Portland State’s new values were based, I could shake the university from its madness. In 2018 I co-published a series of absurd or morally repugnant peer-reviewed articles in journals that focused on issues of race and gender. In one of them we argued that there was an epidemic of dog rape at dog parks and proposed that we leash men the way we leash dogs. Our purpose was to show that certain kinds of “scholarship” are based not on finding truth but on advancing social grievances. This worldview is not scientific, and it is not rigorous.
Administrators and faculty were so angered by the papers that they published an anonymous piece in the student paper and Portland State filed formal charges against me. Their accusation? “Research misconduct” based on the absurd premise that the journal editors who accepted our intentionally deranged articles were “human subjects.” I was found guilty of not receiving approval to experiment on human subjects.
Meanwhile, ideological intolerance continued to grow at Portland State. In March 2018, a tenured professor disrupted a public discussion I was holding with author Christina Hoff Sommers and evolutionary biologists Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying. In June 2018, someone triggered the fire alarm during my conversation with popular cultural critic Carl Benjamin. In October 2018, an activist pulled out the speaker wires to interrupt a panel with former Google engineer James Damore. The university did nothing to stop or address this behavior. No one was punished or disciplined.
For me, the years that followed were marked by continued harassment. I’d find flyers around campus of me with a Pinocchio nose. I was spit on and threatened by passersby while walking to class. I was informed by students that my colleagues were telling them to avoid my classes. And, of course, I was subjected to more investigation.
I wish I could say that what I am describing hasn’t taken a personal toll. But it has taken exactly the toll it was intended to: an increasingly intolerable working life and without the protection of tenure.
This isn’t about me. This is about the kind of institutions we want and the values we choose. Every idea that has advanced human freedom has always, and without fail, been initially condemned. As individuals, we often seem incapable of remembering this lesson, but that is exactly what our institutions are for: to remind us that the freedom to question is our fundamental right. Educational institutions should remind us that that right is also our duty.
Portland State University has failed in fulfilling this duty. In doing so it has failed not only its students but the public that supports it. While I am grateful for the opportunity to have taught at Portland State for over a decade, it has become clear to me that this institution is no place for people who intend to think freely and explore ideas.
This is not the outcome I wanted. But I feel morally obligated to make this choice. For ten years, I have taught my students the importance of living by your principles. One of mine is to defend our system of liberal education from those who seek to destroy it. Who would I be if I didn’t?