A professor has filed a lawsuit in federal court against Bakersfield College and Kern Community College District due to its hostility towards those with dissenting views, forcing many to fear for their jobs and to self-censor.
The lawsuit came after the community college district’s vice president stated publicly that the system needed to “cull” all those who disagreed with its diversity, equity, and inclusion policies, comparing them to animals that needed to be taken to the “slaughterhouse”.
Daymon Johnson is a professor of history at Bakersfield College and faculty lead for the Renegade Institute for Liberty (RIFL), a group of faculty who “value genuine academic freedom, free speech, and critical thinking.”
Johnson’s conflict with the school largely started around May 2021 when he re-posted a Facebook post by Bakersfield College professor Andrew Bond that disparaged America with profanity and claimed the nation has not lived up to its ideals. Johnson shared the post on the RIFL Facebook page, writing, “Here’s what one critical race theorist at BC sounds like. Do you agree with this radical SJW [social justice warrior] from BC’s English Department? Thoughts?”
He also shared Bond’s post on his personal page and posted, “Maybe he should move to China, and post this about the PRC in general or the Chinese Communist Party and see how much mileage it gets him. I wonder, do they still send the family the bill for the spent round?”
At the time, Bond was pursuing a complaint against RIFL’s former faculty lead professor Matthew Garrett. Then he learned that Johnson had shared his post. The lawsuit claims Bond filed an administrative complaint against Johnson for “harassment and bullying,” leading to an investigation lasting five months, which required Johnson to retain legal counsel.
When the investigation had ended, Zav Dadbhoy, former president of Bakersfield College, allegedly communicated to Johnson that the Kern Community College District did not find any cause for discipline, but it did pass judgment on 29 separate allegations. Dadabhoy said that the district will “investigate any further complaints of harassment and bullying and, if applicable, will take appropriate remedial action including but not limited to any discipline determined to be appropriate.”
While Johnson was not disciplined, the same could not be said for Garrett. In 2019, Garrett and Professor Erin Miller gave a public lecture entitled, “The Tale of Two Protests: Free Speech and the Intellectual Origins of BC Campus Censorship.” Bond and Professor Oliver Rosales filed administrative complaints against Garrett and Miller, which led to the school determining that the lecture demonstrated “unprofessional conduct” and threatening further action.
In 2022 Garrett received a notice to “correct your performance deficiencies involving unprofessional conduct.” Some of the allegations included writing an opinion article criticizing Bakersfield College’s characterization of political stickers as hate speech; claiming that the school’s Equal Opportunity & Diversity Advisory Committee had been staffed by faculty with a single viewpoint; three student allegations of causing harm; expressing his views on a local radio show; and failing to restrict criticism on RIFL’s social media page. One of the complaints regarding his opinion piece was that Garrett defended the term “Cultural Marxism,” arguing that the term was not hate speech.
Garrett resigned as lead of RIFL and was succeeded by Johnson. Garrett was soon terminated. After learning that one of the reasons he was fired was his defense of the term “Cultural Marxism,” Johnson searched the RIFL Facebook page and found that 15 of 18 times the term was used on the page, Johnson was the one who wrote it.
It wasn’t only the investigation of Johnson or the firing of Garrett that caused Johnson to self-censor. On December 8, 2022, Dadabhoy emailed Bakersfield staff and stated that “members of BC’s communities of color, and LGBTQ community, have shared that many do not feel peace on our own campus. It has been disheartening to see attacks on members of our campus, especially those who already feel marginalized…We must not allow the discontent or views of a few to supersede what we are required to provide at our college and the work that we have intentionally developed to support all members of the community.”
Four days later, RIFL was discussed at the Kern Community College District Board of Trustees’ meeting in which John Corkins, the district vice president, said,
“They’re in that five percent that we have to continue to cull. Got them in my livestock operation and that’s why we put a rope on some of them and take them to the slaughterhouse. That’s a fact of life with human nature and so forth. I don’t know how to say it any clearer.”
“The First Amendment…guarantees Professor Johnson’s right to express himself, and it forbids the state from mandating that he subscribe to or promote any official ideology. Professor Johnson is entitled to declaratory and injunctive relief securing his First Amendment rights against being ‘culled’ like a disruptive animal for disagreeing with Defendants’ political views.”
This is just one more example of leftists attempting to silence any and all dissent. They truly believe that all people should parrot their views, and anyone who has a different view is somehow hateful and harming others. This goes against everything a college is supposed to stand for and work to achieve. Colleges must allow for diverse viewpoints, or students will leave as zealots rather than adults who have learned to think critically and to tolerate others’ views.
Jesus said in Luke 6:31, “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.”
We should do so when it comes to people with differing thoughts on topics facing our culture. If leftist college administrators and students want to be allowed to voice their views, they must allow others to do the same. That is called the free exchange of ideas, and it was once a hallmark of a university education.
Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.