by WorldTribune Staff, August 9, 2020
A doctoral student at Stockton University in New Jersey could be suspended and faces other disciplinary charges after students at a virtual class complained that he used a photo of President Donald Trump as his Zoom background, a rights group reported.
Robert Dailyda is facing several charges, including harassment and cyberbullying, and may have to take a “social justice workshop” if found guilty by administrators, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) announced on Friday.
Administrators at the publicly-funded university wrote in an incident report that the image of the president had caused students “to feel offended, disrespected, and taunted” during the virtual class in July, FIRE noted.
Dailyda is also facing violations for publishing a subsequent “intolerant” political Facebook post defending his expression, according to FIRE.
In his post, Dailyda wrote: “I’m ready to fight to the death for our county and against those that want to take it down.”
On July 31 at a pre-hearing interview, a university administrator listed potential sanctions for the charges, which included: “[s]uspension, $50 fine, community service project, social justice workshop, and decision making workshop.”
FIRE said it sent a letter to the university outlining Stockton’s obligation as a publicly-funded institution to respect its students’ First Amendment rights, reminding school administrators that the First Amendment also protects offensive expression, and that Dailyda’s expression is not considered discriminatory harassment.
“Stockton’s organizational leadership program claims to focus on the integrity of leadership, however from my experience they do not associate integrity with free speech and open debate,” said Dailyda. “They have created a deeply embedded and systematic environment that squelches the free speech of those who disagree with their radical agenda.”
“I never thought I would see this from a public university that should be facilitating a marketplace for the full spectrum of ideas, not a monopoly,” Dailyda added.