There is Much Regret at CU About John Eastman

“I don’t mind saying that it was a disaster for the Center, for the University.”

— CU Professor Robert Pasnau, a former director of the “conservative scholar” program that hired John Eastman.

Late last month, we learned that John Eastman — a former visiting conservative scholar at the University of Colorado and one of former President Trump’s main advisors on an attempted coup in 2021 — probably (inadvertently) put himself and Trump in even more trouble recently. Eastman was trying to find a legal way to hide certain documents from public view, but that effort failed spectacularly when a federal judge ruled that Trump “more likely than not” attempted to illegally obstruct Congress as part of a criminal conspiracy when he tried to subvert the 2020 election on Jan. 6, 2021.

U.S. District Judge David O. Carter memorably noted in his opinion that Eastman and Trump were trying to hatch what amounted to “a coup in search of a legal theory.” As we’ve written before, Eastman’s time at the University of Colorado leaves a lot of unanswered questions for Republican gubernatorial candidate Hiedi Heidi Ganahl, who as a CU Regent played a role in bringing Eastman to the “Benson Center for the Study of Western Civilization” at CU Boulder. Eastman’s tenure at CU is apparently not viewed well by even the people who promoted the idea of a conservative scholar program.

Robert Pasnau, the former director of the “conservative scholar” program at CU Boulder.

On Wednesday, Colorado Public Radio aired an interview from Andrea Dukakis with Robert Pasnau, a philosophy professor at CU and a former director of the conservative scholars program. Pasnau did not mince words on Eastman:

DUKAKIS: In retrospect, how do you look at Eastman’s appointment and then what’s transpired since then?

PASNAU: “I don’t mind saying that it was a disaster for the Center, for the University. I said that we’d brought in a lot of good people. With Eastman…it turns out to have been a mistake. [Pols emphasis] Whether that could have been foreseen in advance, I won’t speculate on that. 

Pasnau then half-jokingly notes that he was on leave from the University when Eastman was hired, saying “I’ve got an alibi on that,” before continuing with his blunt assessment:

PASNAU: But, it’s been very bad for the University and it’s specifically been bad for the Center. Before Eastman’s arrival there were a lot of people at the University who were kind of grudgingly willing to concede that the Center had its place, that it could play an important role. And a lot of those folk have pulled back. A lot of departments just refuse to have anything to do with the Center now. I hope that will fade in time, but it will take some time. [Pols emphasis]

You can listen to the segment yourself below:


Pasnau later acknowledges that the “conservative scholar” program at CU has been “diminished…with the whole Eastman affair.”

To our knowledge, this is the first time that someone associated with the “Benson Center” has been so blunt in talking about Eastman’s hiring at CU. Pasnau’s comments make it more difficult now for anyone associated with the program to even attempt to defend Eastman’s presence, as Ganahl once did:

“There are fantastic folks who come in [to the Benson Center]. Right now, it’s Dr. John Eastman, who’s riling some folks up.”

— Heidi Ganahl in December 2020

Eastman was stripped of his official duties at CU in January 2021, which included an admission from the University that his Spring 2021 classes had already been cancelled due to “low enrollment.”

10 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. spaceman2021 says:

    The center is a disaster.  It should fade away.  

  2. JohnInDenver says:

    The Center has an interesting challenge — trying to explain the 2020-21 year in the Annual Report.   Description of Eastman is … accurate but incomplete?

    John C. Eastman recently retired as the Henry Salvatori Professor of Law & Community Service at Chapman University. Eastman, a scholar of constitutional law, earned a Juris Doctor from the University of Chicago Law School. He holds a PhD in
    government from Claremont University and a BA, cum laude, in politics and economics from the University of Dallas. He has served as dean of the Chapman University School of Law and clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

    Pity Daniel Jacobson, the person who was a brand new Director of the Center.  He introduced the Annual report by saying

    The 2020–21 academic year was a challenging time for everyone, including at the Benson Center. Despite the difficulties, thanks to the generosity of our donors, we continued to attract top-notch guest speakers, hosted visiting faculty, CU faculty fellows and doctoral fellows, offered 12 courses to over
    300 students, conducted our second summer institute for visiting faculty, provided innovative events, developed a podcast, supported students and faculty with grants and much more.

    Although things did not always go as hoped in my first year as director, I’m happy with what we were able to accomplish despite the current political acrimony and distrust — not to mention the global pandemic that forced us to hold events virtually.

    But I’m more excited about the prospects for the future

  3. JohnNorthofDenver says:

    I would love if there had been a true discussion with Pasnau or Eastman if conservative and scholar are compatible.

    I didnt hear former professor Pasnau accept that the attempt by Republicans to indoctrinate students with the Benson Center was a failure only that it tarnished conservative professors. 

    He’s just sad he got caught.

    PS the Benson Center for Western Civilization… All those western chauvinist sure got quiet after Putin invaded the west.

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