Peter Boghossian, who has taught philosophy at Portland State University for the past decade, resigned last week in a letter to the university’s provost. His letter was published at Bari Weiss’s website at substack, where so many progressives and other commentators of integrity and principle have fled. What he describes sounds typical of what is going on a the vast majority of colleges and universities. If the academic profession had any integrity as a whole, it would have halted this rot before it corrupted the young and damaged society as much as it already has.
In Boghossian’s case, late is better than never, but it is still damning. I was considering designating him an ethics hero, but I am uncertain that one who tolerates the intolerable in his own organization while it becomes part of a national movement to crush free thought deserves too many accolades for finally doing what he should have done years before. I am open to debate on this point.
His letter is long and excellent, so please read it yourself. I will post, with only a few comments, some illustrative and especially notable excerpts below.
“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.”
Comment: I may quote this entire passage in my essay for my 50th class reunion book. It applies to Harvard.
- “Students at Portland State are not being taught to think. Rather, they are being trained to mimic the moral certainty of ideologues…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”
Comment: And why didn’t you start fighting then?
- “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.”
Comment: Ya think???
- 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….So…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 …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.”
- “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.”
“As individuals, we often seem incapable of remembering this lesson, but …the freedom to question is our fundamental right. Educational institutions should remind us that that right is also our duty…it has become clear to me that this institution is no place for people who intend to think freely and explore ideas.”
Comment: And what institution run by progressive ideologues—that is, the vast majority of our institutions–is such a place?