A head inclusion officer at one Michigan school is in hot water after appearing outside a Trump rally holding a profane protest sign.
On Dec. 18, President Donald Trump held a rally in Battle Creek, Michigan. During that time, Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer Jorge Zeballos of Kellogg Community College (KCC) protested, holding a sign that read, “F**K TRUMP, F**K McConnell, F**K GRAHAM,” outside the Kellogg Arena where Trump was speaking.
Zeballos posted a selfie of himself holding the sign on Facebook, then deleted it, according to multiple sources. However, at least one screenshot was acquired of Zeballos’ post before all traces were allegedly removed.
“Recently I posted a picture on my [Facebook] page of me holding a sign at a rally to protest Trump’s visit to Battle Creek,” wrote Zeballos.
“While I stand by my first amendment right to express myself, I understand that my public and private actions have repercussions on the institution I work for, Kellogg Community College. Because of this, I deeply regret posting the picture on my Facebook page and the controversy it has generated.”
Zeballos insisted that “anyone that has interacted” with him “knows that he strives “to have respectful dialogue on some of the most challenging issues with anyone that holds a different opinion than mine. This incident doesn’t change who I am and what I stand for, creating a more equitable and inclusive society,” added Zeballos.
The KCC Board of Trustees issued a statement regarding Zeballos’ conduct clarifying that “The KCC employee in question was expressing his personal opinion on his own time, and not acting on behalf of the College.”
“KCC is a politically neutral, tax-funded institution of higher learning, and does not side with any political party or campaign message,” added the college.
The school called the situation a “teachable moment” and a “healthy reminder” that individual actions can reflect poorly on the school.
“Whether that impact affects an individual’s employment status at KCC, positively or negatively, is a determination made via KCC’s ongoing performance management process, which is appropriately confidential and involves an employee and others empowered by the institution to manage performance,” the school added.
“At KCC, our mission is to provide accessible, high-quality education to enrich our community and the lives of individual learners. As a marketplace of ideas, we remain committed to freedom of speech and freedom of expression as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. We also remain committed to creating an inclusive environment where we celebrate commonalities and foster respect for others and our differences.”
Campus Reform previously reported on KCC getting sued for arresting YAL members recruiting on campus, for which KCC settled for $55,000 and updated its free speech policies.
Regarding Zeballos’ profane protesting, a conservative student who asked to remain anonymous told Campus Reform, “Not surprisingly, local media seems to be largely silent on the story, including the local newspaper the Battle Creek Enquirer. …This past year the faculty and staff were required to attend several mandatory diversity training sessions led by Zeballos that were described by some as ‘hating whitey.’ Zeballos usually appears very unfriendly in the hallways and rarely has a smile to offer. How could any conservative student or employee feel comfortable with this man setting the tone for the institution's one-way equity policy[?] As a conservative, I never open my mouth about anything to anyone at the school.”
“I have yet to come across another conservative voice,” said the student.
“I'm sure they likely exist there, though probably a minority, but must remain hidden or face certain reprisal from a system that seemingly only values liberal thought.”
Local community member Joni Jones told Campus Reform, “I am a tax-paying citizen of Battle Creek. I was directed to Jorge Zeballos' publicly-available FB page and this picture by a friend who knew that I have deep concerns as to what we see happening with some of these ‘Equity,’ ‘Diversity’ & ‘Inclusion’ initiatives at our public institutions of higher education. I was shocked to find this picture and even more disturbed that some of KCC's Board members (who are FB ‘friends’ with Mr. Zeballos) had not pressured him to remove the post.”
“Mr. Zeballos has every right to protest and to express himself, however, he is bound by a professional code of conduct as an employee of KCC, knowing that his conduct and speech will also be associated with the college,” said Jones.
“He has violated the very goals that are listed on the ‘Equity & Inclusion’ page of KCC's website. His behavior, in no way, fosters or promotes civility and does not advance dialogue. To the contrary, it will have the effect of squelching free speech on campus, as those students with conservative leanings are likely to be intimidated into silence. That is NOT what colleges and universities are supposed to be about and it has to stop.”
KCC pledges a commitment to, “creating an inclusive environment where we foster respect for others and our differences, support cultural understanding, demonstrate ethical behavior and champion social justice,” by “valuing the lived experiences and perspectives of others.”
Campus Reform has reached out to Zeballos, and the KCC Board of Trustees for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.