‘I apologize to anyone who felt threatened or was offended’
A Kern Community College District Board of Trustees member has apologized for a controversial comment he made at a December board meeting focused on racial concerns among students and faculty over those who challenge diversity, equity and inclusion programs.
“I apologize to anyone who felt threatened or was offended. My intent was to emphasize that the individuals who spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting have my full support,” said John Corkins, vice president of the Board of Trustees of the California college district, in a statement to The College Fix provided by the media relations office.
He said the meeting was an emotional one during which “several African-American faculty, students and statewide representatives … bravely shared their feelings of fear based on the actions of a small group of faculty members and their feelings of disappointment in the district for allowing these actions to continue.”
A video of the Dec. 13 meeting shows Corkins saying there are “abusive” faculty 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,” he said.
Corkins was referring to some faculty who have challenged various antiracism and diversity, equity and inclusion programs and policies. One of the focuses of the meeting is a group called the Renegade Institute for Liberty.
Tenured history Professors Matthew Garrett and Erin Miller, who teach at Bakersfield College, part of the Kern Community College District, are among the leaders of the institute.
In 2021, after the two were threatened with termination after they questioned use of grant money to fund social justice initiatives at their college, they filed a federal lawsuit against the district.
The Renegade Institute for Liberty describes itself as “a coalition of Bakersfield College faculty dedicated to the free speech, open inquiry, critical thinking to advance American ideals within the broader Western tradition of meritocracy, individual agency, civic virtue, liberty of conscience and free markets.”
“…Through intellectual exploration and reason, the Institute works to preserve each of the above virtues as necessary for a free people and to advance the cause of liberty in America.”
But some say the institute has made them feel unsafe.
“Many came to the board on behalf of those students, asking trustees to address the racism on campus and even terminate professors who have made it unsafe for students of color—particularly the removal of professors who founded the group Renegade Institute for Liberty,” KGET, a local NBC affiliate, reported Dec. 15.
“The group has had campus controversy over its advocacy of free speech, considered by others as hate speech, and dealings with other groups on campus,” the news station added.
Corkins, in his statement to The College Fix, said that during the meeting “Bakersfield College student Jordyn Davis, BC professor Dr. Paula Parks, and several statewide representatives from the Umoja program, which is dedicated to improving educational outcomes for African-American students, bravely shared their feelings of fear based on the actions of a small group of faculty members and their feelings of disappointment in the district for allowing these actions to continue.”
He said his controversial remarks are regrettable.
“I believe all students, staff and faculty in our district have an unequivocal right to feel safe and accepted as they pursue their educational goals or assist students in completing their degrees, certificates or upper division transfers,” Corkins said. “I will continue to support the Bakersfield College community to ensure that right.”
A source in support of the Renegade Institute for Liberty emailed The College Fix an anonymous statement arguing those who complained at the board meeting “failed to provide any specific examples of racism or ‘hate speech.’”
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