Professor resignation highlights pressures within academia to comply
PETER BOGHOSSIAN, non-tenured assistant professor of philosophy at Portland State University (power supply), was one of the most vocal critics of postmodern ideology in the academy, until he resigned from his university on September 8. In 2018, he and two authors attempted to publish 20 fake papers, in order to expose what they saw as a willingness to publish anything that used the right jargon. Seven have been published, including one on “queer performativity” in urban dog parks, and one calling astronomy imperialist and suggesting that physics departments study interpretive dance.
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It’s a loss for satire, but is it also representative of something bigger? In his resignation letter, Mr Boghossian wrote that the university had grown from “a bastion of free inquiry to a factory of social justice whose only elements were race, gender and victimization and whose only results were grievances. and division “. Students at power supply are “trained to imitate the moral certainty of ideologues,” he wrote. A spokesperson for the university retorted that “the State of Portland has always been and will continue to be a welcoming home for free speech and academic freedom.”
Other researchers have found themselves in similar situations. Curators who stay at the academy may be used to this. But it affects the Liberals more and more. A report released in August by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a campaign group, found that since 2015, the number of academics targeted by requests for investigation, demotion, censorship or dismissal reached 113 in 2020, for a total of 426 cases in five years. Some of these cases can stretch the sympathies of the casual observer. The majority, however, are “left academics attacked from further left,” says Sean Stevens, one of the authors.
Censorship isn’t just in the humanities. In 2020, Norman Wang, a cardiologist at the University of Pittsburgh, was demoted for publishing an article in the Journal of the American Heart Association who analyzed and criticized diversity initiatives. The newspaper apologized and retracted. A professor at a University of California medical school was recently recorded apologizing at an endocrinology conference for using the term “pregnant women.”
Some on the left claim that campus illiberalism is overkill. In an article by Liberal currents, Adam Gurri wrote about the FIRE report that “if another problem in social life were to occur at this frequency and on this scale, we would consider it effectively solved”. It is doubtful. According to Mapping Police Violence, a website, police have killed 381 unarmed African Americans since 2013. This is (rightly) seen as a problem and a global movement exists to draw attention to this topic.
Part of the problem, says Bruce Gilley, one of Mr Boghossian’s supporters to power supply, is the “industrial complex of diversity” within collegiate administrations, which must justify their existence. The vice presidents of diversity at Oregon’s three public universities have an average salary of $ 262,000. In 2018, University of Michigan’s Mark Perry revealed that his university had nearly 80 diversity officers for a total annual payroll of $ 10.6 million.
This makes it difficult for anyone who wishes to challenge dominant views, especially on issues such as race and gender, says Boghossian. “The mere threat of being called by the Diversity and Inclusion office is enough to silence people. ” ■
This article appeared in the United States section of the print edition under the headline “Free to Talk Now”