Professor Who Authored Hoax Papers Says Portland State University Has Launched Disciplinary Proceedings Against Him

The hoax made Peter Boghossian and his cohorts the international toast of “free thinkers” who claim college campuses are paralyzed by political orthodoxy.

Contrarian professor Peter Boghossian says Portland State University has initiated disciplinary proceedings against him for authoring hoax papers, including one that purported to study dog-on-dog sexual assaults in Portland parks.

Boghassian, who teaches philosophy of education at PSU, conspired with two colleagues to submit more than two dozen satirical papers to feminist theory and race-studies journals, in an effort to prove those disciplines are academically fraudulent. That hoax, revealed in October, made Boghossian and his cohorts the international toast of "free thinkers" who claim college campuses are paralyzed by political orthodoxy.

But it also drew the scrutiny of Portland State administrators—and a faculty committee concluded in November that Boghossian had probably violated PSU's policies against research misconduct by publishing findings he knew to be false. A second committee determined he violated university policy by not submitting his research for prior review before experimenting on people.

Boghossian says PSU has 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," he sad 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."

He declined further comment to WW.

Mark McLellan, PSU Vice President of Research and Graduate Studies, tells WW that PSU can't comment on personnel matters, but confirms that its Institutional Review Board has completed its examination of Boghossian's work.

"Like most universities," McLellan says, "PSU adheres to the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, which includes policies on research misconduct. 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."

The university's discipline, like the papers themselves, have offered Boghossian an opportunity to draw widespread, negative attention to PSU.

A public relations team working with Boghossian has already released statements of support from academic "free thinkers" including Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker and Jordan Peterson.

"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 writes. "But to pretend that this is a matter of publishing false data is so obviously ridiculous that one cannot help suspecting an ulterior motive."

Boghossian's papers—which claimed to study the rate at which Portlanders interrupted canine sex at dog parks, among other unlikely findings—were designed to mock gender studies, race studies and feminist theory by showing that the top journals in those fields had low standards for publication. The admission of the hoax sparked heated debate over whether Boghossian and his colleagues had demonstrated the absurdity of those disciplines or the ease of getting bad-faith research published.

Boghossian told WW in October that PSU administrators had asked to discuss his methods. "I have a meeting and I've been summoned. I can't say anything else. I think that everybody is walking on egg shells. I think people are afraid to say, 'They don't speak for me.' I think these disciplines are so entrenched and these ideas are so entrenched that people are so afraid."

Asked then if he expected to be at PSU in 2019, Boghossian replied: "Ask me next year."

Clarification: This story has been updated to note that Portland State University is examining two allegations of research misconduct by Boghossian—one of falsifying research and another of failing to obtain institutional permission for the research.