5 Big Questions: Erin Miller and Matthew Garrett, history professors suing university officials

Miller and Garrett say that Bakersfield College employees retaliated against them after they asked questions about how taxpayer dollars were being spent.

Despite the ongoing lawsuit, they continue to teach at the college and say that taking a stand is worth backlash.

Two Bakersfield College history professors, Erin Miller and Matthew Garrett, have filed suit against the college’s former chancellor and general counsel. The professors allege unfair treatment and retaliation that took place after they questioned how their colleagues were spending public funds. 

In September 2019, Garrett gave a lecture to fellow faculty members that included asking how public funds were being used. He says these questions followed “several instances of campus censorship,” including school administrators trying to crack down political stickers posted around campus.

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Garrett was concerned about the possible use of tax dollars for “various social justice agenda items.” He said, “The first one I noticed was funding towards a propaganda website that is affiliated with the United Farm Workers Union that lashed out at me and called me a racist when I started asking questions. And I noticed that the byline said it was paid for by the college, and that started me asking more questions about what else the college is paying for.” 

Miller says that other faculty members complained to the administration about her only after she began filing public records requests to find out where the money was going.

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According to the lawsuit, Bakersfield College administrators threatened to fire them as a result of these actions. The pair say they offered to debate two professors who had complained about the lecture, but their offer was denied. 

Both say they don’t regret taking a stand, even though the climate on campus has changed dramatically for them. “If faculty and students don’t speak up now,” Miller said, “we won’t be able to.” 

Both Miller and Garrett continue to teach classes at the college. 

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AngelaLMorabito