Stickers spotted on Bakersfield College's campus have brought concerns among various faculty members, many believing the stickers question issues regarding free speech and vandalism.
Earlier this month, stickers from the group Hundred-Handers appeared on doorknobs, elevators and several posters on campus promoting messages such as "Smash Cultural Marxism," "Never Apologize for Being White," "Feminism is Cancer" and "'Diversity' Means No White People."
In an email to The Californian from a person who identified themselves as Head, they described Hundred-Handers as bringing "white advocacy into the real world in a way that is safe for the anonymous activist." The email stated the group is active across two continents and dozens of countries.
The group in general is most active at the start of the month, posting several stickers on doors, posters, poles and other places.
The stickers have since been removed because they did not follow proper posting guidelines, according to BC officials.
Nicky Damania, director of student life at BC, was notified of stickers on campus on April 27 when Octavio Barajas, adjunct history instructor, alerted him to a "Smash Cultural Marxism" sticker placed on a Jess Nieto Memorial Conference poster, which celebrates the life of the Chicano activist.
"I think the stickers incite violence. The language they are choosing to use, the idea of smashing something is violent," Barajas said.
After that first incident, Damania said he learned of a sticker placed on another poster on campus. He said about 10 stickers were placed throughout campus on the student newspaper's racks, doors and windows.
In response to the stickers and graffiti on campus, Damania sent out a campus-wide email stressing the importance of student safety and the college's motto: "If You See Something, Say Something, so we can Do Something."
"Diversity is one of Bakersfield College’s core values. Bakersfield College expects our community to be an inclusive, safe, and positive learning environment that is welcoming to everyone. Graffiti, vandalism or defacement of posters will not be tolerated," the email stated.
Still, the email sowed some confusion among faculty and staff.
There was no mention of the Hundred-Handers stickers in the email, so Barajas felt the email was "very unclear of the nature of what took place."
Others, such as history professor Matthew Garrett, felt the email was unnecessary given the political nature with the conference.
"(The Chicano Studies conference) was political last year, with hostile commentaries about presidential candidates and an audience of local activists standing and fist pumping as they chanted. I met with the president and complained about it," Garrett said. "This sort of political activism on campus is a questionable use of taxpayer money."
Garrett believes the stickers that offer political criticisms and are not racially pejorative, such as "Shame Cultural Marxism" and "Pornography is a social rot," are viable. Garrett added the college's email was a violation of First Amendment free speech.
"Hate speech is allowed. You can’t report someone for hate speech," he said. "I don’t agree with hate speech, but you can’t start policing speech."
Oliver Rosales, coordinator of BC's Social Justice Institute, does not see this as an issue of free speech but rather vandalism.
"The sticker slappers were violating school policy," he said. "If someone wants to put up stickers or events, you don’t need to deface other people’s property."
Peter Eliasberg, chief counsel at Los Angeles-based ACLU of Southern California, concurred.
"If the school has rules about posting stuff, it doesn’t matter what the content of the sticker that’s being stuck, they have legitimate basis to prohibit that activity," he said.
This is not BC's first encounter with Hundred-Handers stickers, according to Barajas. Several were discovered two years ago on Muslim Student Association posters. Barajas' students also said they found anti-Semitic and sexist stickers this semester.
"The college needs to be more careful and take these stickers as serious threats. I hope the institution itself has a plan for how to follow through," he said. "Even if they don’t come up again, just have a plan."
If stickers continue to surface in the coming months, Damania said the college will "make every attempt to ensure our campus is safe and a welcoming environment."
Eliasberg believes "the school does much better trying to foster and support students on campus than it does trying to discipline students for the content of their speech."
Rosales even sees this as an opportunity to continue advancing conversations regarding diversity, respect and equity. Garrett, who is also the director of the Liberty Institute on campus, thinks this also opens up discussions surrounding free speech, and he would be interested in holding panels or debates on the topic.
"The only way we’ll know what’s right or wrong is to talk about it," Garrett said.