Bakersfield, CA — The California Community Colleges Board of Governors recently issued a pervasive set of guidelines that force faculty to embrace an “anti-racist” ideology, in clear violation of fundamental First Amendment rights.
Participation in the state’s all-encompassing political program is now required “to teach, work, or lead within California’s community colleges.” The state explicitly demands that “faculty members shall employ teaching, learning, and professional practices that reflect DEIA [diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility] and anti-racist principles.” And so-called “equity-centered practices” must be incorporated “into teaching and learning, grading, annual evaluations, and faculty review/tenure processes.”
A newly amended lawsuit filed by the Institute for Free Speech on behalf of Bakersfield College history professor Daymon Johnson asks a federal court to declare the rules unconstitutional.
The suit began as a challenge to the enforcement of this state-mandated ideology at Bakersfield College on behalf of Professor Johnson. Administrators there had subjected Professor Johnson to a five-month investigation over “bullying” and “harassment” for criticizing a fellow professor’s political commentary on Facebook. These administrators have already fired one professor for offenses such as writing a newspaper op-ed that disagreed with the school’s condemnation of a political protest and criticized cultural Marxism.
The college district’s Board of Trustees exemplified this toxic, anti-speech atmosphere, with one of them even saying publicly of those who speak out, “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.”
When Bakersfield College officials announced their intent to enforce the new state guidelines and required faculty, including Professor Johnson, to complete “DEIA training” as a condition of serving on hiring committees, the Institute for Free Speech attorneys representing Johnson amended the suit to challenge these new, statewide guidelines in an effort to protect the rights of Johnson and other faculty members across California from these new requirements.
“No American should be subjected to repressive, unconstitutional rules that compel speech, intimidate dissenters, and ruin careers purely based on a refusal to advance and conform to a state’s political ideology,” noted Alan Gura, lead counsel for the plaintiffs and Vice President for Litigation at the Institute for Free Speech.
The lawsuit asks that administrators be enjoined from investigating or disciplining Professor Johnson for offering his viewpoints and seeks to prevent officials from demanding that faculty advance and teach the state’s official DEIA ideology.
To read the amended complaint in the case, Johnson v. Watkin, click here.
About the Institute for Free Speech
The Institute for Free Speech promotes and defends the political speech rights to freely speak, assemble, publish, and petition the government guaranteed by the First Amendment.