Bruce Gilley isn’t very popular in academic circles these days. Many of his fellow scholars aren’t particularly fond of a paper he wrote arguing that colonialism wasn’t the net negative thing that social justice crusaders believe it is. However, Gilley is getting support from where it matters most.
The university that pays his salary is standing behind him in the face of adversity.
A public university that evaluates job applicants with 44 questions about “cultural competencies” is standing behind a professor facing a professional blacklist for making “the case for colonialism.”
Scholars and students around the world are calling for peer-reviewed Third World Quarterly, which is published by the multinational academic publisher Routledge, to retract the September article by Bruce Gilley, associate professor of political science at Portland State University, and replace the journal’s editors.
Gilley did not respond to a request for comment. Margaret Everett, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs at PSU, sent The College Fix a statement through a representative:
Academic freedom is critical to the open debate and free exchange of knowledge and argument. Because of Portland State University’s commitment to academic freedom, we acknowledge the right of all our faculty to explore scholarship and to speak, write and publish a variety of viewpoints and conclusions. The university also respects the rights of others to express counterviews and to engage in vigorous and constructive debate about the faculty’s work.
‘He brings up the other side of a debate that has always been off-limits’
Individual faculty in Gilley’s department declined to be interviewed on the record, but a philosophy professor at PSU who has previously courted controversy says their silence is emblematic of fear.
“They’re afraid of reprisals from their leftist colleagues,” Peter Boghossian told The Fix.“Gilley has my unwavering support. He’s a professor. His job, literally, is to publish in peer-reviewed journals. If professors are afraid of publishing anything that’s morally unfashionable, our entire engine of knowledge production would be compromised.”
Boghossian touches on the real problem here. Gilley wrote something that may or may not be factually accurate — I leave it to actual scholars to determine that. But what he’s being blasted for was daring to actually argue a contrary point of view. Many of the criticisms leveled at Gilley don’t actually take issue with the scholarship itself, but rather with the fact that its findings simply aren’t popular.
In other words, rather than refute what Gilley wrote through scholarship and better academic research, they want to silence him. They want to make his paper essentially disappear…and his colleagues at Portland State University see that.
I, for one, applaud the school for standing behind Gilley. Further, I want to tell those who would simply purge him and his ideas from academia to suck it up, step up, and either refute his findings or shut up about it. That’s how the academic world is supposed to work. You either do the work, or you remain quiet.
Otherwise, the next person who is deemed too offensive to be allowed to speak academically just might be you.