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April 18, 2022 09:34 AM UTC

Campaign Launched To Shut Down CU's Benson Center

  • by: Colorado Pols
Former CU visiting professor John Eastman, CU Regent/GOP gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl.

As Westword’s Michael Roberts reports, the University of Colorado’s Bruce D. Benson Center for the Study of Western Civilization, a hotbed of controversy on the state’s flagship public campus for over a decade culminating in the disastrous appointment of 2020 coup mastermind John Eastman in 2020 as the center’s “Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policy,” is now the target of a campaign by student activists to shut it down–and frankly we’re only surprised at how long it took to get here:

New Era Colorado, which describes itself as “the leading voice for young people in Colorado politics,” has launched a campaign, complete with online petition, to pressure administrators to shut down the Bruce D. Benson Center for the Study of Western Civilization, a privately funded branch of CU Boulder that was launched in the early 2000s as a way to add conservative voices at the famously liberal institution.

Since 2013, the Benson Center has hosted visiting scholars focused on study and instruction with a decidedly rightward slant — but the 2020-2021 invitee, attorney John Eastman, has been by far the most controversial. He’s been tagged as the central intellectual strategist in the effort by supporters of former president Donald Trump to deny the results of the 2020 presidential election, as well as a conspirator in the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Eastman spoke at the rally prior to that action, and new information about his role continues to surface as a congressional committee continues its investigation.

The Benson Center is the brainchild of former CU President Bruce Benson, a major Republican donor and one-time candidate for governor who took over management of the university during a period of great financial hardship. Benson righted the fiscal ship at CU with help from an improving economy, and as a reward with the support of the school’s longstanding GOP majority on the Board of Regent Benson set to his personal pet goal of carving out an ideological haven for “conservative thought” on campus in the form of the Benson Center.

It’s important to understand this origin story to know that the Benson Center is not some kind of longstanding institution on the University of Colorado campus. and unless you’re a believer in “conservative affirmative action” there really is no reason for the center to exist at all in an academic setting. This is because “conservative thought” is not discriminated against in higher education; it is simply unable to withstand academic scrutiny. Bruce Benson was hard-wired incapable of understanding this reality, and as a result spent his term as President essentially creating a haven for prejudice and ignorance.

The New Era petition portrays Eastman as a symbol of everything that’s wrong with the Benson Center. After contending that the center “promotes white supremacy culture,” it argues that “the annual appointment of visiting scholars who frequently champion harmful language and actions — including attending the January 6 insurrection” has “debased the standards of this institution.” It continues: “John Eastman’s direct and personal role in the near-destruction of American democracy while serving as the Benson Center’s visiting scholar has exposed the broken reasoning at the heart of the Center’s existence. This goes against the values of CU students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members. Harmful and destructive white supremacist and insurrectionist teachings have no place on CU’s campus.”

As Colorado’s last remaining Republican statewide elected official in the form of CU regent-at-large, the ongoing controversy over the John Eastman’s disgrace of the Benson Center slops directly into gubernatorial candidate Hiedi Heidi Ganahl’s lap like an errant plate of goulash. Ganahl has steadfastly avoided hard questions on most issues on the campaign trail, including this one, to the point of damaging awkwardness all its own. A frontal assault on the Benson Center could make that continued silence impossible.

Barring a major change in position that would make its own headlines, Ganahl is honor-bound to take a stand in support of the Benson Center and Eastman personally after repeatedly praising Eastman’s appointment–even after Eastman’s embarrassing op-ed suggesting that Kamala Harris’ citizenship isn’t good enough to serve as vice president. Before June 28th, it could actually help her to throw down.

For November, it’s going to be a real problem. And it’s definitely not going away now.


19 thoughts on “Campaign Launched To Shut Down CU’s Benson Center

    1. lol cancel culture

      Jumping up and down and shrieking like an entitled 5-year-old about how social media platforms owe wingnuts a free forum to air bugfuck wingnuttery doesn't strike me as especially "conservative," but hey, there's exactly nothing conservative about the contemporary GQP.

  1. Even the GOP has got to admit that the Center is evidence of "broken reasoning." The free market in ideas has spoken on university campuses across the country. If you have to ask a "gubmint school" to prop up your idea with a Center, isn't that a good sign that the idea is just another welfare queen? 

  2. If the Benson Center for the Study of Western Civilization closes where will all those young Western Chauvinist go? What they don't call themselves that any more? They were rooting for Russia against the west? 


  3. As a former academic, I have no problem with people wanting to give money for more instructional resources — even if bounded by strange requests or priorities.  Like ecological preserves sheltering rare animals, sheltering representatives of endangered schools of thought isn't necessarily a bad thing.


  4. From the Newswires today:  Marjorie Taylor Greene paid for $10,000 worth of legal services from Constitutional Counsel Group this quarter, per FEC filings — that's John Eastman's law firm.

    Does she realize attorney-client privilege isn’t retroactive? 

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