Galloway Township, New Jersey – A college student may be facing disciplinary action – and even a fine – from his university because of having an image of Donald Trump visible during a class Zoom session and a political Facebook post where he decried the “leftist agenda” of Black Lives Matter.
Apparently the aforementioned offenses made fellow students feel threatened and the university even involved campus police.
NJ student faces disciplinary action for having Trump background on Zoom conference!
I am done with the leftist agenda of BLM and the white self-haters. I have seen it in action in my doctoral classes at Stockton and the general media. I'm not backing…https://t.co/S3MzX0RhfW
— usmade1001 (@usmade1001) August 10, 2020
However, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education is fighting on the student’s behalf, saying that this university would be violating the First Amendment if they tried to pursue any discipline against the student.
Robert Dailyda is a doctoral student at Stockton University who is at the center of all this madness over a picture of Trump and Facebook post. On July 1st, Dailyda used a photo of President Trump as his background image during a Zoom virtual class. One student had sent a private message to Dailyda during the class being critical of Dailyda’s choice in background photo.
Later on in the day, after the class had ended, numerous other students used a GroupMe chat to further criticize Dailyda about the depiction of President Trump where Dailyda exchanged a “heated” debate with fellow students but nothing became “threatening” during the exchange.
New Jersey’s Stockton University, a 20-minute drive from Atlantic City, charged a student with disruptive behavior, discrimination, harassment, creating a “hostile environment,” causing “harm” and cyberbullying. His violation? Using Trump’s image as his Zoom background.
— Richard Byrne (@rickbyrne3) August 9, 2020
From there, Dailyda removed himself from the chat to avoid any further conflict over a picture of the president.
On the same day, Dailyda took to Facebook to air some grievances over what he coined a the “leftist agenda”. The post, which was tame in nature, is what really got some feathers ruffled to the point of the school getting involved.
According FIRE, the post stated the following:
“I have gotten to the point that I have to say something. I love this country. We are a diverse, yet assimilated population from all backgrounds.
I believe all must have the same opportunities and I commit to make that a priority. Beyond that, I am done with the leftist agenda of BLM and the white self haters.
I have seen it in action in my doctoral classes at Stockton and the general media. I’m not backing down. If we can’t get past this, ok, I’m ready to fight to the death for our county and against those that want to take it down. I believe there are also many like me.”
Dailyda then added a comment to his own post that stated the following:
“I’m surprised how many people are quiet…maybe not…”
Another Facebook used replied to the comment Dailyda put on his post with:
“That’s what we do. (Quiet) but we aim with precision. Boom done. No drama.”
In an unsurprising turn, students from Stockton saw the post and claimed that is seemed threatening.
In an incident report submitted on July 22nd, the Stockton’s Director of Care and Community Standards, Amy Jones Rozell, cited the two incidents as a “violation of University Code of Conduct” and considered it a “bias incident” (something typically used to describe threatening a group of people based upon race or gender).
What’s most ridiculous in the incident report is that what was considered particularly egregious was the response someone else made on Dailyda’s post about aiming “with precision”. The incident report tried to allege culpability to Dailyda via the following:
“This response was not written or responded to by Mr. Dailyda but the reporting parties did mention the words sounded threatening and they were concerned that Mr. Dailyda may have similar views and thoughts of violence.”
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Oh, but it wasn’t just the post appearing to have a threatening comment added by someone who is not Dailyda – students also claimed the post was “racist” (big shocker there):
“Those that reported the Facebook post indicated that they felt the language to be angry, potentially violent, racist, and intolerant.”
Because a post claiming how diverse our country is, how the author of the post wants everyone to have equal opportunities and that he’d fight to the death against those who aim to destroy our country is now racist.
Oh, it must be the part where Dailyda disagrees with the “leftist agenda of BLM and the white self haters”.
The charges that Dailyda is facing are violating the code of conduct for disruptive behavior, discrimination, harassment, creating a hostile environment, causing harm, and cyberbullying. The punishments that could be levied against Dailyda are the following:
- A $50 fine
- A community service project
- Attending a decision-making workshop
- And/or, attending a social justice workshop
Basically, the school believes that if found guilty of the wrong opinion, they can take money away from Dailyda, suspend him from school, induce forced labor and then send him to a reeducation camp…I mean “workshop”.
Instead, Dailyda did the right thing and sent over a letter from FIRE explain that the university was on the precipice of committing one giant no-no if they pursue this social justice debauchery any further.
Today, with FIRE's help, he’s fighting back.
FIRE reminded Stockton University of its obligation as a public institution to respect students’ First Amendment rights and explained that Dailyda’s expression does not constitute discriminatory harassment.https://t.co/MahF9ICSIL
— FIRE (@TheFIREorg) August 7, 2020
It’s called the First Amendment, and the courts said that public university have to play by the rules as if they’re an extension of the government.
In a well-written letter to the President of Stockton, Dr. Harvey Kesselman, FIRE explained in great detail with legal citations the following reasons why Stockton needs to give this pursuit a rest:
- Stockton is bound by the First Amendment
- Dailyda’s Expression is Protected by the First Amendment
- Dailyda’s silent display (the background photo of Trump) cannot be penalized as “disruptive”
- The First Amendment protects offensive expression
- Dailyda’s expression does not constitute discriminatory harassment
- Dailyda’s expression does not constitute a true threat
- And finally, that Stockton may not punish Dailyda for another’s online expression
In closing, the letter drafted by Zachary Greenberg from FIRE enclosed the logical route for the school to take:
“Given the urgent nature of this matter, we request receipt of a response to this letter no later than the close of business on Tuesday, August 11, confirming that Stockton has abandoned pursuit of the charges against Dailyda.”
If Stockton University leaders are smart, they should likely oblige the request and leave the student be on this one.
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