Portland State University professor Peter Boghossian — one of three academics who teamed up on a hilarious-yet-disturbing project in which they convinced numerous peer-reviewed journals to accept bogus "grievance studies" in order to expose the "biased academic left" — said he's in trouble with his college over it all.
Boghossian told Willamette Week that Portland State administrators — who found in December that he violated school policy by publishing false research — have launched disciplinary proceedings against him.
"PSU, like many college campuses, is becoming an ideological community, and I've demonstrated that I don't fit the mold," the philosophy of education professor told the outlet in a statement. "I truly hope the administration puts its institutional weight behind the pursuit of truth, but I've been given no indication that's what they intend to do."
What does Portland State have to say?
Mark McLellan, PSU vice president of research and graduate studies, told Willamette Week that the school can't comment on personnel matters but confirmed its Institutional Review Board completed its examination of Boghossian's work.
"Like most universities, PSU adheres to the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, which includes policies on research misconduct," McLellan told the outlet. "The CFR requires that research institutions establish uniform policies and procedures for investigating and reporting alleged misconduct in science. The review process is extensive and detailed. It is confidential to protect the reputation of individuals involved."
Reason said Boghassian could face sanctions, including possible termination.
Asked then if he expected to be at PSU in 2019, he replied to Willamette Week: "Ask me next year."
What's the background?
Boghassian, James Lindsay, and Helen Pluckrose discussed their project last fall in a USA Today op-ed titled, "From dog rape to white men in chains: We fooled the biased academic left with fake studies."
Lindsay (an author and mathematician) and Pluckrose (editor-in-chief of Areo Magazine, which focuses on "humanism, culture, politics, human rights, science, and free expression") wrote with Boghassian in their op-ed that they submitted 20 papers to journals focusing on hot-button issues such as gender, race, and sexuality.
They said seven of their papers were accepted — "many in top-ranking journals" — and included an adaptation of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf," a look at "fat bodybuilding" for a discipline called "fat studies," as well as one that addressed "rape culture" by "monitoring dog-humping incidents at dog parks in Southeast Portland, Oregon."
Another paper suggested placing "white and male students on the floor in chains" as a way to create "experiential reparations."
How did the trio's fake studies slip through the cracks?
The writers said their papers "fit in" with what the journals "consider scholarship."
More from their op-ed:
Our paper suggesting we put privileged white and male students on the floor in chains takes only a small step forward from the existing literature we used to support it. For example, we were encouraged by the peer reviewers for that paper to follow Barbara Applebaum's work to ensure we didn't show too much compassion to those mistreated students, which would "recenter" the needs of the privileged. The peer reviewers encouraged us to frame it in terms of Megan Boler's "pedagogy of discomfort," which recommends that overcoming privilege requires being made uncomfortable and left to sit with that discomfort.
The writers added that "aggrieved academics can put broken, biased, and even openly racist and sexist ideas through the peer-review process, and have them come out the other side legitimized as though they are established knowledge." Such "laundered" ideas, they noted in their op-ed, "often take a cynically biased perspective on men, masculinity, heterosexuality and whiteness."
And without checks and balances in academia, the trio said such ideas have "seeped out of the university and become part of our everyday lives."
More from their op-ed:
Concepts like "toxic masculinity," "white fragility," "cultural appropriation," and "microaggressions" are now familiar to many of us. Most people, however, don't realize that these concepts originated within academic journals just like those that accepted our papers. Those journals laundered them through a broken system, leading them to be picked up by journalists, activists, HR departments, and policy makers as though they're some kind of established truth.
Richard Dawkins calls out the college
A public relations team working with Boghossian released statements of support from academic "free thinkers" including Richard Dawkins and Jordan Peterson, Willamette Week added.
"If the members of your committee of inquiry object to the very idea of satire as a form of creative expression they should come out honestly and say so," Dawkins wrote, the outlet said. "But to pretend that this is a matter of publishing false data is so obviously ridiculous that one cannot help suspecting an ulterior motive."
Here's a clip describing what the trio did: