College Professor Fired in What He Deems “State-Funded Smear Campaign”

Matthew Garrett

Tenured history professor Matthew Garrett was fired from California’s Bakersfield College after a years-long politically motivated “state-funded smear campaign” that began when Garrett questioned the college’s social justice agenda. 

In 2019, Garrett wrote an article disagreeing with the school’s characterization that anti-Marxist stickers on campus were “hate speech.” In response, a website paid for by the college called him an “apologist for white supremacy.”

Things progressed in the fall of 2022, when he was removed from the campus diversity committee and given a notice of unprofessional conduct. The notice followed the college’s assertion that Garrett—and the free speech coalition he had formed on campus—were causing “real harm” to students. 

When discussing the free speech coalition during a December 2022 Kern Community College District Board of Trustees meeting, board Vice President John Corkins compared anti-woke and free-speech advocates like Garrett to livestock that needed to be culled from a herd. “Got them in my livestock operation and that’s why we put a rope on some of them and take them to the slaughterhouse,” he said. 

In the spring of 2023, Garrett faced “completely fabricated” charges before the college’s school board, which he claims were put forward by progressive-leaning professors and students whom he had never met. The college fired Garrett in April 2023, citing his engagement in “immoral and unprofessional conduct,” “dishonesty,” and “unsatisfactory performance.”

Garrett appealed the decision, accusing the college of putting forward baseless allegations and defending his teaching record. Several organizations such as the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, PEN America, and the National Association of Scholars are standing with Garrett. 

In June, professor Daymon Johnson filed a lawsuit against a number of Bakersfield administrators, citing a complaint that the college punished faculty members for exercising their right of freedom of speech. Johnson is the faculty lead for the Renegade Institute for Liberty, a coalition of school faculty aiming to “advance American ideals within the broader Western tradition of meritocracy, individual agency, civic virtue, liberty of conscience and free markets.” The coalition stated that Johnson filed the complaint after Garrett—who was his predecessor—was terminated.

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