Conservative scholar Steven Hayward to teach at UC Berkeley

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Steven Hayward is no stranger to controversy.

While he was the visiting scholar of conservative thought and policy at the University of Colorado in 2014, his statements in the media were called “oppressive and discriminatory” by student leaders, he was the subject of multiple editorials in the Denver Post and the chairman of the faculty assembly said his statements “bordered on hate speech.”

But at the end of his one-year term, he still called the experience overwhelmingly positive. And this fall, he’s coming to UC Berkeley.

Hayward, the conservative columnist and Ronald Reagan Professor of Public Policy at Pepperdine University, begins a three-year term as a visiting scholar at the campus Institute for Governmental Studies, where he will teach classes and hold events in an attempt to expose UC Berkeley to conservative thought.

“I like large challenges,” Hayward said. “I wanted to get out of the conservative ghetto; I spent most of my adult life in conservative think tanks in Washington, D.C.”

Starting in January, Hayward will teach a course on U.S. constitutional law in the political science department. He intends to teach a course at the UC Berkeley School of Law on executive power and administrative lawmaking with professor John Yoo, who is known for his role in the production of a series of memoranda on “war on terror” policies, dubbed the “Torture Memos,” during the George W. Bush administration.

“We don’t apply a litmus test to people who are going to teach classes,” said Eric Schickler, chair of the department of political science. “We want to ensure it’s a high-quality course.”

Schickler said the department doesn’t have any faculty qualified to teach the constitutional law course that Hayward will teach. In the past, the course has been taught by a graduate student.

Susan Gluss, spokesperson for Berkeley Law, said in an email that Hayward’s appointment to the law school is still under review. She added in the email that in the search for instructors, Berkeley Law “(attempts) to generate a pool of candidates with diverse backgrounds and points of view.”

Hayward’s conservative bona fides are not in doubt. In his 2012 book, “The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Presidents: From Wilson to Obama,” Hayward gave his personal ranking of modern presidents. Calvin Coolidge earned the lone A+ while Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton all received Fs. Barack Obama received a provisional F. Hayward says he hasn’t given Obama a final grade yet.

While he may be publicly vocal in his beliefs, Hayward says that he separates his personal political beliefs from his teaching.

“I try to be scrupulous,” Hayward said. “You try to present the full spectrum of opinions on subjects.”

In the past, Hayward has been criticized for language that some have called insensitive. In Boulder, student leaders took issue with comments he made in a blog post on the conservative blog Power Line, in which he criticized a university gender equity training as a “gender-bending diversity mandate.”

In a post on Power Line announcing his campus appointment, Hayward joked that in the class he plans to teach with John Yoo, they are “thinking of offering the students a choice for course grading: a 25-page research paper, or being waterboarded.

In response, John Birke, a 1989 graduate of Berkeley Law, sent a letter to interim dean of Berkeley Law Melissa Murray opposing Hayward’s proposed appointment, accusing Hayward of bullying environmentalists and having ties to the industrialist billionaires, the Koch brothers.

When asked about his reference to waterboarding, Hayward said those offended “need to get a sense humor.”

Berkeley Law declined to comment on the joke.

Jesse Choper, former dean of Berkeley Law and professor emeritus at the school, supports the appointment of a conservative lecturer in what he believes is a left-leaning field, saying that it’s an advantage to have a wide array of ideological political views expressed.

“It’s a joke,” Choper said. “Maybe it was a bad joke. I think you’re better off avoiding bad jokes.”

Austin Weinstein is the lead academics and administration reporter. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @austwein.