Though Berkeley's faculty remains predominantly liberal, it has become more ideologically diverse over the years as the best minds, regardless of political bent, have been picked to build the nation's well-respected computer science program, engineering school and law school, which is considered one of the best in the country. Many of Yoo's faculty colleagues have spoken out on the need for representing a wide range of viewpoints. Among those deflecting calls for Yoo's dismissal was fellow law professor Goodwin Liu, whom Obama has nominated for the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Students also represent a broad array of political outlooks, although critics of Yoo's work for the Bush administration have dominated the debate over his tenured position.
"We don't want someone like that teaching us about the law and how to apply the law. It's a humiliation for the law school and a huge disservice to the law students," said Liz Jackson, co-chair of the Boalt Hall chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. "We are a very prestigious place to be, and he gets a lot of legitimacy from being here and having a respected platform from which to speak."
Yoo carries on cheerfully with his constitutional law class and a seminar on which he has bestowed the assignment to write a manual for delegates to a state constitutional convention, should one be called. He points out that 180 students enrolled in his civil procedure class last semester, as evidence that he is hardly being shunned by the students. Critics contend, though, that only two professors offered the course and that it was the last opportunity for this year's graduates to take the class.
Yoo seems more amused than uncomfortable as the center of controversy.
He speculates that much of the student body leans left as well, having "self-selected" UC Berkeley for its reputation as a liberal bastion.
He doesn't detect open resistance to his position, the occasional protest or invasion of his classroom notwithstanding.
"Maybe they have the idea that it would be interesting to see what a conservative professor is like," he says of the law school students who take his classes. "Then they can always say, 'I've met a conservative.' They can tell their family and friends."
He doesn't seek to change his students' thinking, he says.
"I don't really care whether they agree with me or not. I don't care whether they follow me or not. Our mission is to make them better thinkers," he says. "I would be just as pleased if one of my students became a Democratic [appointed] Supreme Court justice."
Despite his rocky passage from government back to Berkeley, where he has taught off and on since 1993, Yoo doesn't rule out a return to public service should Republican conservatives regain the White House.
Though he says he much prefers the freedom and intellectual stimulation of a college campus, he says he believes anyone called to serve the country should do so.
"My parents were immigrants. I could have been a convenience store manager," the South Korean-born professor says of the opportunities afforded by his adopted country. "I feel very fortunate to have a job like this one."
In addition to his legal work for the Bush administration, Yoo served as general counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee and was a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Having experience in all three branches of government has given him a solid background from which to draw in his teachings, he said.
"Besides, my wife has forbidden us from moving. She likes it here," he says of Elsa Arnett, a writer he met at Harvard University while studying for his undergraduate degree in American history.
She is the daughter of Pulitzer Prize-winning former foreign correspondent Peter Arnett, whose political views make for spirited family get-togethers, Yoo says of his opinionated father-in-law.
Yoo seems at peace living in Berkeley, even though he disparages the community as an enclave of self-satisfied extremists intolerant of those who think outside the liberal mind-set.
"But that doesn't mean I don't like it here," he says.