Portland State University – January 27, 2017

Liberal political group objects to conservative event, but decides not to protest

Portland, OR

An anti-fascist political group aborted plans to disrupt a campus event that promoted Free Speech rights and featured two prominent conservative commentators.

Key Players

Dave Rubin is the host of The Rubin Report, a politically conservative talk show that airs on YouTube.

Christina Hoff Sommers is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a conservative think tank.

Peter Boghossian is a professor of philosophy at Portland State University (PSU).

Further Details

Activists belonging to an anti-fascist group called Rose City Antifa aborted plans to disrupt a panel discussion titled “The New Campus Thought Police” at Portland State University’s Hoffman Hall. The event, which took place on January 27, 2017, was attended by approximately 300 students and featured YouTube political talk show host Dave Rubin, AEI scholar Christina Hoff Sommers, and PSU philosophy Professor Peter Boghossian, reports The College Fix.

The panel was sponsored by the Center for Inquiry Portland, an organization that says it seeks to “foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values,” as well as Freethinkers of PSU, which calls itself “a student group that promotes secularism and free thought on campus.” The scholars’ discussion presented an “honest and unfiltered conversation about the controversial subjects of free speech and political correctness on college campuses,” according to a Facebook page promoting it.

Prior to the event, a Facebook group affiliated with Rose City Antifa launched a “phone jam” campaign to flood PSU officials with complaints about the event and lobbied PSU’s Philosophy Department to suspend the discussion, reports the Vanguard, a PSU campus publication. Antifa suggested on social media platforms that the conversation would disempower “women, queer people, trans people, Muslims and POC (or people of color)” and argued, “While the PSU Free thinker’s certainly claims to be a secular humanist group after the incident at Williams for free speech; the decision to host an event mocking the need for safe spaces when women, LGBTQ people, and POC are watching their basic rights evaporate by the hour under the Trump regime shows that in fact this group has a reactionary agenda. Depite [sic] the fantasy of white male victimhood at the hands of the ‘PC Police’, the actual power dynamics in our society are exactly the opposite.” Rose City Antifa also posted a statement allegedly from the Chair of PSU’s Philosophy Department, which stated that although the department disapproved of the event, it could not shut it down. Noah Sharpsteen, an adjunct professor at PSU and the Philosophy Department office manager, later stated that the department had issued no such statement, the Vanguard reports.

On the day of the event, Antifa reversed its position and discouraged members from interfering with the discussion. The Vanguard reports that “there was no known presence of Rose City Antifa at the speaking engagement.”


Event Took Place As Scheduled

During the event, a small number of audience members shouted at the speakers who advocated for universal Free Speech. Outside Hoffman Hall, a small group of peaceful protesters gathered and passed out pamphlets containing information about safe spaces and micro aggressions.

External References:

‘New campus thought police’: Freethinkers of PSU present dialogue on free speech, The Vanguard

Free speech wins: In Portland of all places, Antifa halts plans to shut down ‘thought police’ talk, The College Fix

Prepared by Ian Prasad Philbrick ‘17

August 22, 2017