A professor at Bakersfield College in California has taken legal action against the institution, claiming that his freedom of speech has been stifled. Professor Daymon Johnson, with the representation of The Institute for Free Speech, has filed a lawsuit arguing that his own ability to express his viewpoints may be restricted if the college continues its current practices. The lawsuit arises from the college’s alleged termination of another professor, who was sharing conservative political opinions.
Professor Johnson, who serves as the Faculty Lead for the Renegade Institute for Liberty (RIFL), a group advocating for free speech, meritocracy, and free markets, believes that his position within RIFL has made him a target for increased scrutiny from college administrators. He contends that the group has been unfairly demonized by the institution.
Bakersfield College conducted a lengthy investigation into Professor Johnson’s critical comments about a colleague on RIFL’s Facebook page. Although he was ultimately found not to have violated any rules, the investigation forced him to seek legal counsel. The school’s findings implied that Johnson’s expression of his views may have been motivated by political disagreements. The lawsuit alleges that a high-ranking official accused RIFL of promoting exclusion, contradicting the school’s mandated anti-racist ideology.
Professor Johnson is seeking protection from potential punitive measures by the college for expressing his opinions. He argues that his First Amendment rights should shield him from being required to adhere to a specific ideology. The lawsuit requests declaratory and injunctive relief to safeguard his rights and prevent him from being treated like a disruptive force simply for disagreeing with the defendants’ political positions.
The lawsuit also highlights a controversial statement made by John Corkins, Vice President of the Kern Community College District Board of Trustees, which oversees Bakersfield College. Corkins compared those who disagreed with him to animals being led to the slaughterhouse. While he later apologized for the comment, he maintained that his intention was to emphasize support for individuals expressing their viewpoints during public comment sessions at board meetings.
This legal action follows the termination of Professor Matthew Garrett, Johnson’s former colleague, who had criticized the college’s treatment of “anti-Marxist” stickers as a “hate crime” in a 2019 op-ed. The controversy intensified when Garrett’s campus group questioned a “racial climate survey” during a diversity meeting, resulting in his removal from the diversity committee.
The response of Bakersfield College and The Institute for Free Speech to this lawsuit is currently pending.