New Jersey student Robert Dailyda faces potential disciplinary action for using a photograph of President Donald Trump as his background during a Zoom video conference last month.
Dailyda, a doctoral student at Stockton University, has been accused by his university of violating portions of the student code of conduct because his classmates were “offended” by the image, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
After the July 1 class, Dailyda’s classmates criticized him in a private chat. Dailyda removed himself from the chat, then posted on his Facebook page:
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 country and against those that want to take it down. I believe there are also many like me.
Two days later, campus police contacted Dailyda because they received a report that he had made “threatening statements.” According to FIRE, another person had commented on Dailyda’s Facebook post, writing, “…we aim with precision. Boom done. No drama.”
After interviewing Dailyda, police ultimately did not pursue charges against him.
But the drama was not over.
One week later on July 10, Dailyda was summoned to meet with Stockton’s Care and Community Standards Office.
“They asked him to explain his political views, Zoom background, and Facebook post,” FIRE reported. “Dailyda explained that [he] was disappointed with Stockton’s institutional endorsement of the Black Lives Matter movement, aspects of which he does not support.”
Following the meeting, Stockton administrators officially charged Dailyda with violating nearly a half-dozen provisions of the Campus Code of Conduct, including:
- Disruptive behavior
- Hostile environment
Because of the charges, the university is considering numerous options for disciplinary action against Dailyda, including suspending him, imposing a fine, assigning community service, or mandating he attend a “social justice workshop” and a “decision making workshop.”
According to FIRE, whose mission is to “defend and sustain the individual rights of students and faculty members at America’s colleges and universities,” Stockton is violating Dailyda’s First Amendment rights by seeking to punish him.
“The expression here is clearly protected,” FIRE wrote in a letter to the university. “Stockton may not permissibly use it disciplinary process to punish Dailyda for his protected political expression.”
Stockton confirmed they have opened an investigation into Dailyda, but has not commented further, citing privacy laws.
Diane D’Amico, Stockton’s director of news and media relations, told the Washington Examiner, “That case is still open and no disciplinary action has been taken.”