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A student at a New Jersey college is facing potential suspension after fellow students filed a report against him for a Facebook post he wrote after using a photo of President Trump as the background on a Zoom call. And now, a students’ rights organization is calling on the university to withdraw the slew of charges it brought against him.
Stockton University doctoral student Robert Dailyda, according to a letter from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), is facing student-conduct charges of disruptive behavior; discrimination; harassment; hostile environment; harm; and bullying and cyberbullying.
The charges stem from July 1, when Dailyda used a photo of Trump as his Zoom background, according to a letter sent by FIRE to the university. FIRE is demanding that the charges be withdrawn no later than Tuesday.
The use of the photo upset other students and led to a discussion in a group message that became “heated” but was not “threatening,” according to the letter. Dailyda then left the group message, the letter says, to “avoid continued conflict.”
But he later posted a message on Facebook on the “leftist agenda of BLM and the white self haters” that he said he has “seen in action” at Stockton.
“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,” Dailyda said. “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 added in a comment: “I’m surprised how many people are quiet… maybe not…” A comment to that post, from a different person, said: “Bob Dailyda that’s what we do. (Quiet) but …we aim with persision (sic). Boom done. No drama.”
Stockton University in New Jersey is pursuing several charges code of conduct charges against a student who used President Trump as his Zoom background and made a political Facebook post. (Google Maps)
The school then received complaints saying that the Trump photo on the Zoom call made students “feel offended, disrespected, and taunted” and that the response to Dailyda’s post made some students feel “concerned that Mr. Dailyda may have similar views and thoughts of violence.”
Dailyda pleaded “not responsible” to the long series of charges from the school. FIRE said that a silent display like the Trump photo is broadly protected under the First Amendment, notably by the Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines, which allowed students at a high school to wear anti-Vietnam War armbands. FIRE continued that even if Dailyda’s Facebook post was “subjectively offensive,” it “does not rise to the level of discriminatory harassment, and thus remains protected by the First Amendment.”
FIRE also added that Dailyda cannot be guilty of threatening other students — likely responding to the school’s charges that he created a hostile environment or caused harm with his words — because Dailyda’s post is “clearly political hyperbole.” The letter added that the school cannot punish Dailyda for the other individual’s comment on his post.
Stockton University confirmed that it is pursuing the case against Dailyda but did not comment further.
“I can confirm that Mr. Dailyda is a graduate student at Stockton University,” a spokesperson for the university told Fox News. “A Code of Conduct complaint regarding Mr. Dailyda was filed with the university and is being investigated. The case is still open and no disciplinary action has been taken. The federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) prohibits Stockton from providing any additional information.”
When asked by Fox News during a phone call if the university would bring charges against a student in a similar situation if the background had been Joe Biden, the spokesperson said that if a person files a complaint it is “obligated to investigate it.” But an FAQ on the school’s website notes that such a complaint does not obligate the school to bring a litany of charges against a student, as it did with Dailyda.
“Does a complaint automatically become a campus hearing board complaint?” an FAQ reads. “No, the Care & Community Standards Office reserves the right to review any complaint submitted, prior to a pre-hearing interview, to determine if the Campus Hearing Board is the appropriate venue for resolution of the complaint.”