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‘The Case for Colonialism’ professor hired by New College of Florida as reform of school marches on

Portland State University political scientist Bruce Gilley, author of “The Case for Colonialism” and unceasing cancel culture target, is taking his scholarship to the “Hillsdale of the South.”

Gilley will join New College of Florida as a presidential scholar in residence for the 2024-25 academic year amid a sabbatical year from PSU.

Left-leaning scholars have shown active disdain for both Gilley and New College, the latter of which is in the process of being remade from a poorly ranked campus heavily focused on social justice and critical race theory into one that prioritizes a classical liberal education.

“What they are doing there is of global significance, because this is a public university, it’s where the clearest democratic fight is,” Gilley told The College Fix in a telephone interview Friday discussing his new post.

In a piece for the American Conservative, Gilley explained further: “New College is the first Reconquista of a publicly-funded venue. …Taking back power from the academic mullahs who have turned higher education in the West into little more than a madrassa system of leftist thought depends on storming the public institutions, not fleeing from them.”

Under the direction of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who led a massive higher education reform effort in the Sunshine State that included defunding DEI, six conservative trustees in 2023 were appointed to the New College board, who quickly fired its president, with appointee Christopher Rufo at the time calling the campus a “social justice ghetto.”

Since then, left-leaning professors have resigned en masse, the board abolished its gender studies department and is building back up its athletics department, and is also working to enroll more male students to balance out a gender population disparity, The College Fix has reported.

But the heart of the changes at New College are focused on academics, including refreshing its honors college with a Great Books curriculum announced in January. Several contrarian thinkers in addition to Gilley have also been tapped as presidential scholars in residence, including renowned literary theorist Stanley Fish.

President Richard Corcoran stated in a Feb. 29 news release announcing Gilley’s hire that “his willingness to engage challenging and controversial topics in his work is welcome in the academic environment of free speech and civil discourse at New College.”

Gilley told The Fix he will teach two seminars per semester and help with program development and special events, debates and seminars, among other duties.

“Education needs to be more than non-indoctrination,” he wrote in the American Conservative. “It should also be empowering. Today’s universities claim to ‘empower’ students by telling them that they are victims, that they are nothing more than their skin color or sexuality, that the world is controlled by elites and their only option is street antics, that the planet is doomed. This is disempowerment.”

“Students should instead leave college with a strong sense of individuality, personal responsibility, humility, and open-mindedness. I hope to help the New College to structure its programs with a laser focus on this character formation,” he added.

New College of Florida was beset with problems long before DeSantis tapped the new trustees to turn around the school in what has been billed as an effort to take a highly progressive-left campus and turn it into the “Hillsdale of the South.”

Gilley, a well-known conservative scholar who served as a member of the center-right National Association of Scholars for seven years, is no stranger to controversy.

In fact, his hiring prompted a piece in Inside Higher Ed on Friday that republished a parade of his recent posts on X that did not mince words on topics such as transgenderism and race. It’s not the first time his writing has raised eyebrows, and more.

In 2017, his scholarly article “The Case for Colonialism,” published in the peer-reviewed Third World Quarterly, led to petitions denouncing Gilley and his piece that drew upwards of 16,000 signatures, as well as demands for his firing.

The article was taken down after the journal’s editor received credible death threats. The piece was also likely the impetus for an administrative probe Gilley faced right after the controversy (he has since been cleared).

Gilley forged ahead with his scholarship, offering a class called “Conservative Political Thought” at Portland State. That, too, was canceled by his peers in 2019.

In 2022, after Gilley was blocked on Twitter, now called X, by a University of Oregon account after he tweeted “all men are created equal,” he filed a First Amendment lawsuit. That case awaits a ruling from an appeals court, Gilley told The Fix.

Last year, Gilley published a book on his research called “The Case for Colonialism.”

MORE: Pagan alumni of Florida’s New College upset at Gov. DeSantis’s ‘disruption’ of the school

IMAGE: X screenshot


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About the Author
Fix Editor
Jennifer Kabbany is editor-in-chief of The College Fix.