Student leaders at the University of Colorado are speaking out against Steven Hayward, the university's first-ever visiting scholar in conservative thought, for statements he made in a recent interview and in a blog post.
Chris Schaefbauer, CU Student Government president of student affairs, and Caitlin Pratt, student government director of safety and inclusion, said they're concerned about Hayward's "oppressive and discriminatory" ideas.
Schaefbauer and Pratt said statements Hayward made in a March 17 interview on Colorado Public Radio and in an October blog post cause the Boulder campus harm and do not promote inclusivity and respect.
"We realized after thinking about it that somebody had to say something," Schaefbauer said.
Schaefbauer and Pratt wrote their criticisms of Hayward in an opinion piece published in the Colorado Daily titled "Bigotry is not Diversity."
The student leaders pointed to a post Hayward wrote on the blog PowerLine in October titled "Off on a gender-bender," in which he described his discomfort and confusion after attending an orientation for new faculty members about gender identity.
Hayward poked fun at members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in the same blog by writing: "LGBTQRSTUW (or whatever letters have been added lately)."
He also wrote that he doubted any students had ever told a professor about their preferred gender pronouns or asked to be called by a different name.
CU faculty members and instructors are encouraged to include a prepared statement in their syllabi that states their intent to honor a student's gender pronoun or name choices.
"These comments invalidate the lived realities of transgender individuals and mock the LGBTQ community as a whole," Schaefbauer and Pratt wrote in the letter. "It is not Steven Hayward's job to determine whether or not someone's identity is valid: it is his job to contribute to a campus environment where everyone is respected and valued."
The university's official non-discrimination policy states that the campus will not tolerate discrimination or harassment based upon protected classes, which include race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, age, disability, creed, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or veteran status.
In an interview with the Daily Camera, Hayward said he does not believe any student in his classroom has felt uncomfortable or unsafe.
"I would challenge them to find any student who feels uncomfortable or unsafe in any of my classes, and they're welcome to put out an (all-points bulletin) on that if they like," he said.
Schaefbauer and Pratt said their criticisms of Hayward do not apply to the new visiting conservative scholar program, which is expected to continue for two years. The campus is searching for the second scholar, who will teach and host events on the campus in 2014-2015.
"We think that perspective is valuable to students so they can make their own decisions and shape their own views on social issues," Pratt said. "The thing we take issue with is the idea that people's identities should be open to being questioned and debated and invalidated. We feel like regardless of someone's political beliefs, they shouldn't be able to invalidate and mock the very real experiences and a very real claim to inclusion and equality that different groups have."
The two student leaders also said they take issue with statements Hayward made on Colorado Matters, a daily interview show on Colorado Public Radio.
During the interview, Hayward was asked about his views on the CU philosophy department, which has been under scrutiny in recent months after the university released an independent report that described sexual harassment and other unprofessional behaviors in the department.
Hayward suggested that victims should deal with their harasser directly.
"Well, I don't know, my mother and my mother-in-law both said, 'You know when those kinds of things happened to us, usually a lot worse 40, 50 years ago when they were in the working world, they slapped people,'" Hayward said in the interview. "Maybe we ought to get back to that."
Schaefbauer said Hayward's comment ignores the power dynamic between a victim and harasser, and places the responsibility to stop harassment on the victim. He added that using physical retaliation does not create a better classroom environment and could put the victim in a more dangerous situation.
CU spokesman Ryan Huff said Hayward's comments do not reflect the views of the university administration, though Hayward is entitled to his opinion.
Huff said the university has systems in place to prevent and educate people about sexual harassment and sexual misconduct, such as orientation sessions for students and mandatory training for all employees.
He added that having independent offices such as the Office of Discrimination and Harassment and Office of Student Conduct ensures that the investigation process of misconduct will be "thorough, fair and objective."
"In situations of sexual harassment or sexual misconduct, there can be power dynamics that make it difficult for victims to express that the conduct is unwelcome," Huff said. "Therefore, it's important that complainants have campus outlets where they feel comfortable reporting cases of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct."
Schaefbauer and Pratt said they hope the open letter starts a dialogue on campus about inclusivity, diversity and the right for all people to feel safe on campus.
"We're trying to build a community so that everyone, no matter what background, can be comfortable in the classroom so they can learn well," Schaefbauer said.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Sarah Kuta at 303-473-1106 or email@example.com.