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.

Ema Sasic can be reached at 661-395-7392. Follow her on Twitter: @ema_sasic.

(4) comments

nickstrobel

Re-read the email from the Director of Student Life that has sparked the Community Voices letters + Letters to Editor. It's pretty clear to me that the issue was vandalism. The campus-wide email also had come on the heels other separate acts of vandalism by others. The particular act of vandalism that sparked the debate in the newspaper appeared to have a political slant against our Hispanic students because of the defacement of posters about the Jess Nieto conference. That reason and also the fact that any other vandalism is disrespectful and a form of violence is why the email included a reminder about Diversity and treating all with respect (and the Golden Rule). Groups can disagree with each other but they're not allowed to deface the other side's posters and property. Putting stickers on buildings and other public property is considered vandalism regardless of the political or cultural view of the person(s) doing it. Graffiti and damaging property is considered vandalism. Posters are allowed but there's an approval process for getting them placed on the various bill boards around campus regardless of the group (if I want to put up a poster about a planetarium show, it goes through the same approval process) and you're not supposed to tear down another group's poster to put up your poster. Respect and Golden Rule. If the group who put the stickers up instead had created posters and asked to have them placed in the authorized places just like every other group, they would have been approved as long as the content did not violate LEGAL standards of hate speech as defined in state and federal laws. BC's had speakers this past year from a pretty wide political spectrum on campus and audiences have all been respectful. There was no name-calling and no denigration of another group. The speakers and audiences have shown that it's possible to espouse one's own views without having to tear down another---sharing of ideas doesn't have to be a zero-sum game.

Below is the email from the Director of Student Life that led to the first Community Voice letter.
========
Hello Renegades,

I am writing to you share that the college has had repeated vandalism to our buildings and property. Bakersfield College treats these matters to the full extent of the law and our student code of conduct.

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. For this reason, we have and will continue taking steps to address this issue.

Perhaps most importantly, I am asking each member of our community to share responsibility for protecting your campus, and ensure it is a safe and welcoming community. As BC students, staff, and faculty, we have the power to shape our learning environment and our community. I ask that you support each [other] and you [report] those who treat your building, community, and college with such little respect.

If you have any information about these incidents or other vandalism that we may not be aware of, please talk to us in Public Safety. If You See Something, Say Something, so we can Do Something.

Please input the Public Safety’s number into your cell phone and report any suspicious activities: 661-395-4554.

Your Public Safety Department is assigned to the four BC locations:
1. Panorama Campus
a. Office: 661-395-4554
b. Emergency Number: 661-395-4555
c. Cell Number (texting is available): 661-747-3808
2. Southwest Campus
a. Cell number (texting is available): 661-747-6076
3. Weill Institute Campus
a. Front Desk: 336-5060
b. Cell Number (texting is available): 661-747-2037
4. Delano Timmins Campus
a. Cell Number (texting is available): 661-747-1601

If you are taking evening classes at any of our other off campus sites in Arvin, Bakersfield, Delano, McFarland, Shafter, or Wasco and you need assistance with anything, please call the main Public Safety at 661-395-4554. If you call the 661-395-4554 number for assistance from any site, the Public Safety Dispatcher will be able to assist you.

Please take the time save these numbers into your cell phones.
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Patricia Edna

We all know the real anger comes from the fact that they don’t know who did this, so they have nobody to publicly shame like they would really like to do. Political messages are perfectly fine for one side, but not the other. Professor Garrett is absolutely correct and if BC wants to become a “safe place” for leftist hate speech but ban any other form of speech, then they should become a private college and stop accepting tax dollars.

nickstrobel

Sigh! No. The real anger is because of the vandalism. I'd be pissed if somebody put up signs or stickers on my own personal property or spray painted graffiti on my house or broke a window just to be mean. I think most people would be pissed at the vandalism. When vandalism happens to a public place that is beloved by a lot of people in the community, then people get understandably angry just like if it was their personal property. Left, right, center doesn't matter, vandalism is bad.

JimmyDude

I'm a white guy. I'm no white supremacist. I don't consider myself paranoid either, but I am starting to agree with one of the stickers quoted in this story.
"'Diversity' Means No White People." To some groups advocating 'equality' and 'diversity' I am starting to think this is what they really mean.

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