LETTER TO THE EDITOR

Guest opinion: Visiting Scholar of Conservative Thought and Policy must strengthen dialogue, not debase it

Steven Hayward

Steven Hayward, Visiting Scholar of Conservative Thought and Policy

When the University of Colorado Boulder announced its three-year pilot  to establish a Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policy Program,  the stated goal was to “strengthen and diversify the level of dialogue on a variety of topics related to Conservative Thought and Policy” (cufund.org “Conservative Thought and Policy Pilot Project”). Our administration made clear that not only would the person in this position teach classes and mentor students but also participate in public activities as a member of the CU community — a community committed to creating and maintaining an inclusive learning environment for all (http://www.colorado.edu/news/features/regents-vote-expand-anti-discrimination-policy).

Thus, it was with dismay that many of us opened our newspapers on (April 3) to read about Visiting Scholar Steven Hayward’s public comments mocking women who have experienced sexual harassment, transgender people, and the LGBTQ community as a whole.

Dr. Hayward’s apparent lack of understanding about people who identify as a different gender than what they were assigned at birth; his ridicule of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer; and his dismissal of the experiences of women who face sexual harassment, are unfortunately still too common at the University. As CU-Boulder’s 2010 climate study revealed, students regularly experience prejudice in classrooms, in academic departments, in residence halls, and a number of other spaces. Responding to open-ended questions on the 2010 survey, a student wrote, “my department has quite a few transgender/ genderqueer students and most of the faculty are NOT sensitive to the issues these folks face, or think it’s some kind of joke.”  Students, faculty and staff are daily confronted with prejudicial and uninformed remarks about various aspects of their identities having to do with their race or ethnicity, their sexual orientation, their gender, their ability status, just to name a few. Faculty who do research on these topics can also encounter similar forms of ridicule and trivialization by professors who are disrespectful of such studies that focus on historically marginalized and underrepresented communities.

Dr. Hayward’s decision to devalue efforts to confront sexual harassment and instead call upon women to physically attack their harassers, as well as his complete dismissal of the real discrimination and violence experienced by LGBTQ people, has no place in an inclusive learning community. Holding the position of Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policy requires the person bestowed this privilege to enhance and diversify our level of dialogue and spirit of scholarly inquiry, not weaken it.  Engaging in meaningful dialogue in response to these events embodies the spirit of Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policy Program.

Because these comments are contrary to the university’s newly expanded anti-discrimination policy, the Faculty Council denounces Dr. Hayward’s statements. We commend our students for speaking out so that we can continue to foster an inclusive learning community. We hope our Visiting Scholars of Conservative Thought and Policy are truly committed to strengthening dialogue, not debasing it.

CU System Faculty Council

Please send comments to facultycouncil@cu.edu