WHAT? PSU spikes conservatism course over diversity concerns

Portland State University denied a professor’s course proposal on conservative political thought, stating that it failed to meet the school’s criteria for diversity. 

PSU political science professor Bruce Gilley created a course on conservative political thought (Conservative Political Thought 485-585), Inside Higher Ed reported. The course’s purpose, according to its course description, is to “consider the main theories of conservatism and how they have been applied to political practice.” 

In the course, “emphasis will be placed on understanding the internal logic and the different strands of conservative political thought and the ways that it has responded to contemporary challenges.”

Conservative Political Thought’s syllabus states that the course will spend time covering Edmund Burke, as well as American, British, European, and black conservatism.

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But Portland State’s faculty graduate council shot down Gilley’s course proposal, saying “at this time there are concerns about the diversity questions as they have been answered” in a response, according to Inside Higher Ed.

“The responses to the diversity perspectives and engagement sections did not support the university commitment to access and inclusion, particularly in regards to providing accommodations to students to the standard set by the Disability Resource Center,” a curriculum coordinator elaborated to the professor in May.

Gilley has taught the Conservative Political Thought twice — the university has a policy that the course needs to be granted permanent status in order for a professor to teach it more than three times. Gilley plans to teach the course as a “temporary” class, but the lack of a permanent status prevents students from applying the course to a formal study track, dissuading them from taking it.

Gilley confirmed in a response to Campus Reform that he believes that the institution’s ideological bias played a role in the rejection of his course proposal. 

“I’m at a stage in my career, however, where I don’t want to play these games anymore,” Gilley told Inside Higher Ed. “It’s wrong.”

Gilley called the university’s diversity standard a “political litmus test.” He said that the rejection prevents the department from offering the most unbiased political education. Students could still be learning about conservative politics, he said, but only through a liberal perspective.

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He suggested that individual departments should decide what makes a good course. Letting an outside committee decide with criteria such as diversity, as PSU did with his own course, leaves a hazardous “open door.”

“Where does it end?” Gilley remarked, according to Inside Higher Ed.

Campus Reform reached out to PSU for further comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

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