Colorado Finds Its Conservative

What would it take to foster true intellectual diversity at a public university?

Some have argued for affirmative action.  The University of Colorado decided to bring in a Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policy.

For the first year of the three-year program, CU hired Steven Hayward.

Hayward has served as the F. K. Weyerhaeuser Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.  He is currently Thomas W. Smith distinguished fellow at Ashbrook Center at Ashland University in Ohio.

Hayward will teach classes in environmental conservatism and constitutional law.  As Hayward told ColoradoDaily.com, “I’m not going to pick any fights or start any gratuitous controversies.”

But Hayward’s one-year position has already raised some controversies.  The program was pressed on CU from outside political pressure.  Some Coloradans apparently felt the university unfairly tipped to the left.  They originally wanted to fund a full chair in conservative thought, but the rigmarole of politics reduced the line to three one-year visiting positions.

How was Hayward selected?  Two other finalists visited the Boulder campus, Linda Chavez of the Center for Equal Opportunity and Fox News, and Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution.

As far as I can tell, this selection process seemed to reinforce the negative stereotype of affirmative action.  Unlike other academics hired to teach political science classes, Hayward does not have a PhD in political science.  His degree comes from Claremont Graduate University in the field of American Studies.  Chavez does not seem to hold a PhD in any field, and Haskins’ PhD was in Developmental Psychology.

The university itself declared that Hayward “brings an impressive breadth of knowledge to this position.”

I don’t doubt it.  But the fact remains that this entire process has encouraged a very different hiring process than usual, and a very different outcome.  The hiring committee itself included five faculty members and five community members, including conservative radio host Mike Rosen.

Will this process encourage CU to embrace Hayward—and future visiting conservative scholars—as part of their intellectual community?  It doesn’t look that way.

Given Hayward’s–and Chavez’s, and Haskins’–very different qualifications, and the different process used to bring them to campus, I wonder if this position will end up confirming the worst fears of some Colorado conservatives.  As John Andrews told the Colorado Observer recently, “this almost plays into the hands of the overwhelmingly left-liberal domination of CU, because it treats conservative thought as sort of an oddity, a zoo exhibit, or the focus of an anthropological field trip.”

Despite Hayward’s and the university’s assurances to the contrary, this experiment seems certain to degenerate into the most fruitless sort of culture-war grandstanding.