(JTNews) – A faculty-run think tank that challenges social justice orthodoxy at a California community college is so loathed by activists on and off campus that an elected official apparently suggested treating its leaders like his doomed livestock.
John Corkins, vice president of the Kern Community College District Board of Trustees, made the agricultural quip at a Dec. 13 meeting following public comments dominated by accusations of racism and harassment by the Renegade Institute for Liberty at Bakersfield College.
“I think there’s a segment” of people at BC, perhaps “5 percent that we have to continue to cull,” said Corkins, who runs an eponymous agribusiness. Trustee Nan Gomez-Heitzeberg, a retired 30-year administrator at BC, nodded in agreement.
“Got ’em in my livestock operation, and that’s why we put a rope on some of ’em and take ’em to the slaughterhouse,” Corkins continued, prompting a guffaw from Gomez-Heitzeberg. “Just bothers me when the bad actors are paid staff and they’re faculty,” who are “hard to get rid of.”
Tenured history professors Matthew Garrett and Erin Miller are leaders in the Renegade Institute, which has 23 listed “committed faculty.” The duo have been on the chopping block for at least two years.
KCCD general counsel Christopher Hine accused the two of making defamatory statements that a rival BC think tank cofounded by then-President Sonya Christian, the Social Justice Institute, misused grant monies. The targeted professors said they were simply criticizing its politicized spending.
Garrett and Miller filed a First Amendment retaliation lawsuit against Hine and then-Chancellor Thomas Burke a year and half ago for creating a false basis to fire them for “unprofessional conduct.”
The duo filed an amended complaint this summer swapping in Christian, the new chancellor, and Vice President Billie Jo Rice, whom Garrett previously accused of sharing confidential files with his detractors and trying to stop his promotion through a racial double standard.
The court docket shows the parties had a settlement conference Dec. 5. Conkins didn’t respond to Just the News queries about whether his culling remarks referred to the possible departure of Garrett and Miller from BC through a settlement, and the propriety of comparing disrespectful employees to culled livestock.
Neither did Gomez-Heitzeberg when asked why she laughed at his culling remarks. An auto-reply from Corkins recommended bringing immediate requests to Christian, who also didn’t respond.
The duo’s lawyer Arthur Willner told Just the News he couldn’t divulge the status of settlement talks but said his clients were “deeply concerned” about Corkins’ remarks.
“This language is disgusting and unprofessional,” he wrote in an email. “It was at best intimidating and at worst threatened violence against my clients and other faculty whose only ‘crime’ is to disagree with some of the prevailing campus political orthodoxy.”
Willner said the other trustees and Christian, who was present on the dais, “shamefully remained silent” and that he heard an off-screen male voice laughing in addition to Gomez-Heitzeberg. He’s already written to KCCD attorneys “demanding a formal public apology from the Board and the Chancellor to my clients for these awful statements.”
A representative of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, named after the farm labor activist, opened public comment at the Dec. 13 meeting by accusing the institute of “posting hate speech, threatening groups of color and intimidating students and staff.”