Judge Recommends Injunction in DEI Dispute Involving California Community Colleges Professor

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On Tuesday, a magistrate judge recommended that a professor should not receive disciplinary action for refusing to adhere to a new diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEIA) policy at the California Community Colleges (CCC) system.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Christopher Baker issued the recommendation in response to a June lawsuit filed by Daymon Johnson, a history professor at Bakersfield College. Johnson’s complaint alleges that the new DEIA policies violate the First Amendment by penalizing professors for expressing conservative viewpoints.

“California has a strong interest in ensuring nearly two million community college students have equal educational opportunities,” Baker wrote in his judgment. “However, California’s goal of promoting diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in public universities does not give it the authority to invalidate protected expressions of speech.”

Baker advised that a preliminary injunction be granted to shield Johnson from potential punishment from the college system for his social and political speech. The final decision on the case will rest with a federal judge.

The initial suit refers to guidance released by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office in May mandating that all Bakersfield College employees exhibit the ability to work, teach, and lead in a diverse environment, along with a commitment to enhancing their own DEI and antiracism knowledge.

Johnson, who leads a conservative group on campus called the Renegade Institute for Liberty, stated in the judge’s recommendation that he rejects DEIA as an official political ideology and says that college officials have targeted him and a previous organization leader because of their viewpoints.

“(A)lmost everything I teach violates the new DEIA requirements — not just by failing to advance the DEIA and anti-racist/racist ideology, but also by criticizing it,” Johnson wrote.

CCC Chancellor Sonya Christian defended the board’s decision during the Tuesday hearing, describing the new diversity standards as “aspirational” objectives for colleges to strive toward that “do not target speech or discriminate on the basis of its content, but instead serve to remove access barriers imposed against groups that have historically been excluded.”