His efforts to create a more diverse campus brought protests from Asian American and white students, who charged that affirmative action policies were unfairly reducing their chances for admission to the prestigious university. Complaints that the school was trying to limit Asian American enrollment led to investigations by faculty and the state government and resulted in some changes in admission policy. Heyman later apologized to the Asian American community for what he said had been an overly defensive reaction to their allegations.
When he announced that he was stepping down from the chancellorship, he said one of the reasons was weariness with the confrontational politics that come with the job of leading a campus long known as a hotbed of controversy.
He returned to teach law at Berkeley after retiring from the Smithsonian in 1999.
He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth; a son, James Heyman; and three grandchildren. His first wife, Therese Thau Heyman, died in 2004, and a son, Stephen, also died. A memorial service on campus is being planned.