Changes course after protesters interfere with speaker at meeting
After facing accusations of violating free speech, the Santa Barbara City College board of trustees announced Tuesday it would recite the Pledge of Allegiance at board meetings effectively immediately until the matter can be discussed further.
“This decision, which restores the status quo, follows an appeal for reinstatement from members of the public who raised important issues at the January 24 board meeting,” Board President Robert Miller said in a statement issued Tuesday. “While the College recognizes that there are different opinions about the Pledge of Allegiance, it expects that the First Amendment rights of members of the public to comment at board meetings will be respected. It is inconsistent with those rights for other audience members to interrupt and mock speakers on this topic, as happened at the January 24 Board meeting.”
The statement was issued a day after an explosive report was published byCampusreform.org, which included an email sent by Mr. Miller to former adjunct professor Celeste Barber. In the email, sent Jan. 21, Mr. Miller said the Pledge of Allegiance is “steeped in expressions of nativism and white nationalism.”
“I also object to the phrase ‘one nation under God,’ ” Mr. Miller wrote in the email. “The First Amendment not only protects freedom of speech and religion (but) it also expressly prohibits laws that establish a religion. The U.S. Supreme Court has expressly extended those rights to those who express no belief in God. Thus, I disagree with the 1955 act of Congress to add this phrase to the Pledge of Allegiance.”
During last week’s meeting, Ms. Barber was one of several people to speak on the topic.
“You are an elected body at a public institution serving a community college,” Ms. Barber said at the meeting. “When you recite the Pledge of Allegiance, you are recommitting your oath to uphold and defend this country’s constitution.”
Ms. Barber gave a few personal reasons regarding why she cherishes the pledge, with one being her experience living behind the wall in East Berlin, stating, “That bit of cloth represented home in a faraway place.”
Ms. Barber then recited the pledge as a group of about 20 protesters shouted to interrupt her and stomped on the ground. The protesters were speaking out against the college’s decision to allow Lyndsay Maas, vice president of Business Services, to return to her post after using a derogatory term for blacks during a gender equity work group meeting last fall.
Ms. Barber told the News-Press she was “ecstatic” about Tuesday’s announcement and said she plans to attend the board’s Feb. 14 meeting.
Rather than speaking, Ms. Barber said all she wants to do is “recite the Pledge of Allegiance with our fellow citizens.”
“What took place last Thursday was an attempt to silence our most fundamental right: the right to speak freely at a public assembly,” Ms. Barber said in an email. “That this took place in a classroom at a public college, an American school, that alone should be of concern to all of us with a stake in this country. Never take our rights for granted, including here in Santa Barbara.”
Ms. Barber expected to be interviewed on “Fox and Friends,” on the Fox News Network, this morning, she said.
The college declined to comment on the Campus Reform report.
On Monday, former adjunct professor Mark McIntire sent a recommendation letter to Eloy Oakley, chancellor of California Community Colleges, calling for the school to suspend all future sessions for the 2019 academic year until an investigation is conducted by a “blue ribbon panel” of taxpaying community members.
In the letter, Mr. McIntire said the college “died” at last week’s meeting.
“Cause of death? Attack by a vicious, well organized mob bent on imposing their perception of reality on everyone else,” he wrote, calling the college “a cauldron of mere feelings and emotions.”
Mr. McIntire said the college administration lost control of the school late last year in its “timid handling” of the incident involving Ms. Maas.
“The SBCC Board of Trustees, in cowardly forbearance of mob rule, and without any apology to professor Celeste Barber, has rendered themselves fully dysfunctional as a governing body,” Mr. McIntire wrote. “I fear (the mob) will resort to violence if the college administration and trustees do not capitulate to all of their Marxist demands.”
His recommendations included: directing the administration to issue a campuswide apology to Ms. Barber for violating her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights; suspending the current administration and board of trustees pending an investigation; and appointing a “special master” to conduct college affairs until the investigation is complete.
Further, Mr. McIntire said the college should suspend all spring administrators and faculty without pay at the end of the semester, as well as suspend all summer and fall sessions for the academic year, until the investigation is filed and acted upon by the chancellor.
“After 51 years of higher education witnessing plenty of peaceful and violent protests, I know the triggering mechanisms to violence when I see them,” Mr. McIntire wrote, adding that if he did not receive a reply from the chancellor, he will appeal his request to the Accreditation Commission of California Junior and Community Colleges.
Paul Feist, vice chancellor of communications for California Community Colleges, told the News-Press that the chancellor’s office had received the complaint but the office hadn’t had a chance to adequately review it for possible action.
Mr. McIntire, a former professor of philosophy who taught at the college for 23 years, was hit with Title IX charges by the school last April for heated emails he exchanged with female faculty members regarding an invitation he sent to guest speaker Michael Shermer. Mr. McIntire eventually reached an out-of-court settlement with the college for $120,000 that erased three negative teaching evaluations and changed his status with the school from “terminated” to “resigned.”
Santa Barbara City College President Anthony Beebe then issued an apology for his handling of the complaints.