DENVER — It was probably too much to expect that Steven Hayward would be able to finish his year as the University of Colorado Boulder’s first visiting professor of conservative thought without running afoul of the liberal faculty.
Hayward ignited a free-speech debate last week after the Boulder Faculty Assembly unearthed an online article he wrote six months ago entitled, “Off on a Gender-Bender,” which the assembly chairman denounced Thursday as “offensive and discriminatory.”
“I found this offensive, bordering on what I think most people would say is hate speech,” said chairman Paul Chinowsky in the Boulder Daily Camera. “If any (other) faculty member said this, we would find ourselves in a dean’s office or possibly on suspension for writing this.”
In an Oct. 1 post on Powerline, Hayward described a faculty-orientation session in which new professors were told to address transgender students by their preferred pronouns. Hayward said he guessed that the number of students who actually ask to be called by a different gender name “approaches zero.”
“So why is this gender-bending diversity mandate so prominent at universities these days?” says Hayward in the post. “The most likely explanation is that it is simply yielding to the demands of the folks who dislike any constraint of human nature in what goes by the LGBTQRSTUW (or whatever letters have been added lately) ‘community.’”
Hayward was poking fun at “LGBTQQIAAP,” an acronym used to describe a wide range of sexual identities. The initials stand for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, allies, pansexual,” according to the website Gay, Explained.
Chinowsky wasn’t amused. While the faculty assembly agreed to vote on a resolution at a future meeting in support of students and the CU non-discrimination policy, “Chinowsky said he didn’t think that measure will go far enough,” said the Camera.
Chinowsky’s position received pushback Sunday from the Denver Post in an editorial headlined, “CU faculty chair overreacted.”
“The entire reason the chair for conservative thought was established at CU was to introduce other viewpoints. In this case, he was raising questions about gender identification terms and practices,” said the editorial. “Some, including us, may take issue with the way he characterized a sensitive topic, but that alone does not make for hate speech. It was free speech, and that’s something we should all support.”
Meanwhile, the Daily Camera ran a guest editorial Sunday by Kyle Inselman, a CU graduate who took issue with Hayward’s comments.
“He guesses the number is ‘zero,’ but I can attest personally that ‘zero’ is an inaccurate number,” said Inselman. “At the beginning of every semester, my to-do list had one extra item underneath buying my books and finding my classes: to inform my instructors that my name and gender would not match their assumptions based on the roster.”
CU Boulder spokesman Ryan Huff said in a statement that all CU-Boulder campus employees “are required to complete Discrimination and Harassment training.”
“Staff members are required to do this within 30 days of their hiring; faculty members must complete this within their first semester of employment. This training covers definitions, reporting and identification of protected classes,” said Huff.
Huff also said that, “Professor Hayward is entitled to his opinion, but his comments are his own and do not reflect the views of the university administration.”
Hayward’s year as the inaugural conservative professor comes to a close with the end of the school year in May. A committee charged with selecting the next visiting conservative professor, a one-year appointment, is considering five finalists.
The finalists are Arthur Herman, author of “Gandhi and Churchill: The Epic Rivalry that Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age”; author and former Montana State University economics professor Terry Anderson; Bradley Birzer, history professor at Hillsdale College; Gary Libecap, professor of corporate environmental management at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Ron Haskins, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
The position, funded with private donations, is aimed at increasing intellectual diversity on the otherwise solidly liberal campus.