A Portland State University professor who sparked widespread outrage by authoring a defense of colonialism says the college turned into a "very hostile campus environment" after the paper was withdrawn last year.
Professor Bruce Gilley, who has been on sabbatical this year, wrote a paper called "The Case for Colonialism" for the London-based journal Third World Quarterly last September. His arguments in favor of colonial conquests throughout history sparked outrage and criticism of the journal and Gilley.
In an interview with The Chronicle of Higher Education, Gilley defended his paper and himself, while criticizing the "new left" for trying to silence unpopular opinions.
"It's the well-known schism between the old left and the new left," Gilley told The Chronicle. "the old left was fully conversant in the importance of debate and dialectic. It's the new left, the cultural left, the safe-spaces left, that is where the schism is."
He told The Chronicle he benefited from being in Portland as the journal withdrew the paper after receiving death threats and widespread criticism.
"Thank God I live in obscure Oregon and not in London," he said.
PSU issued a statement at the time saying it did not support Gilley's views, but the university did support his right to voice his viewpoint and affirmed his academic freedom protections as a tenured professor.
Gilley doesn't find that very comforting.
"The university put out a statement that said, in effect, I can't be fired, I have tenure," he says in the interview. "Basically, their support for an academic conducting research who was being attacked by totalitarian ideologues was, 'Sorry, we can't fire this guy.' In my view, that was disgraceful."
PSU released another statement today, reaffirming his right to speak out.
"While Portland State University does not endorse the viewpoints of Professor Gilley's article, we are committed to academic freedom," PSU spokesman Kenny Ma wrote. "As such, we acknowledge the right of all our faculty to explore scholarship and to speak, write and publish a variety of viewpoints and conclusions…
"Ever since Professor Gilley's article was published last year, Portland State has consistently stated its commitment to academic freedom for all our faculty. This is not a new position we have taken on his article."