A Portland State University philosophy professor is resigning from his position after the university “Sacrificed Ideas For Ideology.”
In a scathing letter to the university’s Provost Susan Jeffords disseminated through Bari Weiss’s substack, Peter Boghossian explained that the academic institution’s unwillingness to accept free thinking is harming education.
Boghossian first joined PSU more than 10 years ago. During his time teaching, Boghossian explained that he often invited guest speakers to campus “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,” he wrote. “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.”
Over the years, however, Boghossian said that “the university has made this kind of intellectual exploration impossible” and “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,” he continued.
Under the guise of fighting off “microaggressions” and “bigotry” on campus, the professor said PSU systemically sacrificed free-thinking and dialogue. When he called attention to the “incidents of illiberalism” and began asking the administration hard questions about their lurch toward homogenous thinking, Boghossian was met with “retaliation” and an investigation into whether he was “beating my wife and children.”
The university’s investigation found nothing to back up the claim, but the professor said there was “no apology for the false accusations.” Instead, Boghossian was told he “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,” he warned. “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.”
Boghossian’s attempts to draw attention to this phenomenon through an “intentionally garbled peer-reviewed paper that took aim at the new orthodoxy” were only met with more vandalism and physical pushback from students and the university without any consequences.
“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,” the professor wrote.
Boghossian said this series of events pushed him to realize that “every idea that has advanced human freedom has always, and without fail, been initially condemned.”
“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,” Boghossian concluded. “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?”