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Brandon and Peter BoghassianBy Brandon Smith, June 19, 2020 (posted by Mary Grabar)Dissident Prof welcomes back Brandon Smith who writes about a glimmer of hope at Portland State University in the wake of Peter Boghossian's Grievance Studies Hoax. Who knows? She might have gotten tenure had she published a paper like his “Human Reactions to Rape Culture and Queer Performativity at Urban Dog Parks in Portland, Oregon”! But keep on, Brandon and Peter!

My studies during my first year as an undergraduate student in 2012 imbued me with an optimistic outlook toward society. As a recently converted Ron Paul Republican attending a suburban community college, I was exposed to John Stuart Mill's argument for the liberty of thought and discussion from his seminal work On Liberty in an introductory course to political philosophy. Mill's argument helped me to picture a world in which problems could be confronted through the open exchange of ideas and dialogue that would allow solutions to be proposed and considered without fear of censorship by a fallible authority that presumes its infallibility.


My vision of a liberal-minded society was shaken, though, as my philosophical studies continued after advancing to Portland State University. In philosopher Dr. Peter Boghossian's Science and Pseudoscience course, the outspoken leftist instructor warned against elements of the far-left that sought to limit discussion of controversial ideas. His warning concerned me especially since American academics (and particularly those at Portland State) tend to be very left-leaning.

Toward the end of my undergraduate program, I found Peter's warning to be prophetic as I witnessed the prevailing attitude toward open dialogue at the institution growing progressively illiberal and directed by “Social Justice.” Some of my fellow students in a Politics and Fiction class that focused on the concept of white privilege said that white people should essentially “check their privilege” and avoid dominating discussions involving racial matters. The suggestion sounded sensible in the moment, but was ultimately problematic to me as a Caucasian student. Participation in the class accounted for a significant portion of students' grades and I happened to be one of the few students that devoted very much preparation to our in-class discussions. I regurgitated notions involving birdcage wires (forms of disadvantages that feminist philosopher Iris Marion Young in Inclusion and Democracy contends are arranged to constrain the agency and achievement of people of color) and invisible knapsacks (collections of perks that women's studies scholar Peggy McIntosh in her article, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” suggests are unearned and unrecognized possessions of white people). I offered no commentary on them to ensure my earning a decent grade without upsetting anyone. I was uncomfortable subjecting my own thoughts on the subject matter to the scrutiny of the class.

Though completion of my crash course in white privilege coincided with my graduation, I returned to Portland State the following year as a post-baccalaureate student to learn that Peter's reputation had been under siege by Social Justice warriors. One could hardly find a building on campus that did not bear graffiti denouncing his name in some way or attend a speaking event that he organized with one of the school's student groups without it being interrupted by radical leftists. However, I was inspired by his resolve after he stepped forward to reveal himself as a co-author of a series of bogus studies hastily published in 2018 in left-leaning scholarly journals that effectively undermined the academic disciplines from which Social Justice ideology is derived.

Brandon, Philip, Blake, PeterThe so-called “Grievance Studies Hoax” was organized by Dr. Boghossian, mathematician James Lindsay, and humanities scholar Helen Pluckrose, and consisted of twenty papers submitted for potential publication, papers lacking any basis in rigorous research that were designed to confirm the biases of leftist peer-reviewers. Due to my close proximity to Portland's lush Laurelhurst and Mount Tabor dog parks in which my favorite four-legged friends can freely roam, I found that the hoax paper that hit most closely to home was the one entitled “Human Reactions to Rape Culture and Queer Performativity at Urban Dog Parks in Portland, Oregon.” Submitted by “Helen Wilson of the Portland Ungendering Research (PUR) Initiative,” it suggested that male-on-male canine rape or humping was interrupted by humans more frequently in Portland dog parks than that of male dogs on female dogs. The “study” involved 1000 hours of observation and discreet dog genital inspection. It concluded that oppression in urban dog parks could potentially be eliminated through further research in the area of study. The paper was accepted and published in the feminist geography journal Gender, Place, and Culture. Three other hoax papers from the project attained publication in various journals with left-wing perspectives.

Of the three scholars involved in this exposé of bias in the academic publishing process, it was Peter who became subject to punishment from his progressive home institution. A July 2019 letter to Peter from PSU's Vice President of Research and Graduate Studies stated that while no animals were actually treated unethically in his research, Portland State's Institutional Review Board determined that his work violated the rights of human subjects and that he was to be at least temporarily barred from conducting further research involving human subjects. Fortunately, his teaching job had been spared despite his lack of tenure.

I relished the opportunity to meet up with Peter this March as he and the PSU Freethinkers student group hosted a unique “reverse Q and A” event focusing on “the Social Justice agenda” in the school's Smith Memorial Student Union (where writer Mary Grabar conducted a controversial speaking event without interruption just weeks prior). Students of various backgrounds came forth with stories and fielded questions regarding the negative impact of Social Justice ideology on their education. Many of the thoughts shared at the event reflected my own experience of trying to stay focused on coursework without revealing personal opinions. Concerns that teaching through a lens of victimization would subvert students' capacity to be competitive were also voiced. One student noted the seemingly acceptable practice of a particular student group discriminating against individuals to which the label of “person of color” does not apply.

In spite of all the event's hot takes and its provocative host, it went forth civilly and free of disruption. It seems that the arguments against “the Social Justice agenda” are starting to take hold, even at one of the most left-leaning universities in the country. Perhaps Mill's ideal society is not out of the realm of possibility after all.

The entire "The Social Justice Agenda: A Reverse Q&A at Portland State University" can be seen here on YouTube.

Brandon Smith Brandon Smith is a graduate of Portland State University with a bachelor's degree in Political Science and has studied under such dissident professors as Bruce Gilley and Peter Boghossian. He currently works as a certified pharmacy technician in Portland, Oregon, and can be reached at Twitter: @BrandonBoujee.

Photo above: Brandon; Philip Arola, former president PSU College Republicans; Blake Horner, president PSU Free Thinkers; Peter





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