New Jersey student Robert Dailyda is facing harsh disciplinary action simply for using a photo of President Donald Trump as his background during a Zoom video conference last month.

Dailyda, who is a doctoral student at Stockton University, is being accused by school administrators 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 Dailyda used the photo of Trump for a July 1 class, he was criticized by his classmates on a private chat. After removing himself from this chat, Dailyda wrote on Facebook:

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.

Dailyda was contacted by campus police two days later after they received a report that he had made “threatening statements.” It should be noted that another person commented on Dailyda’s Facebook post, “…we aim with precision. Boom done. No drama.”

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Police decided not to pursue charges against Dailyda after interviewing him, but one week later, he 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 alleged. “Dailyda explained that [he] was disappointed with Stockton’s institutional endorsement of the Black Lives Matter movement, aspects of which he does not support.”

After the meeting, school officials charged Dailyda with violating nearly a half-dozen provisions of the Campus Code of Conduct, including:

  • Disruptive behavior
  • Discrimination
  • Harassment
  • Hostile environment
  • Harm

The disciplinary actions against Dailyda that the school is now considering include suspending him, imposing a fine, assigning community service, or mandating he attend a “social justice workshop” and a “decision making workshop.” FIRE is firing back by saying 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 school. “Stockton may not permissibly use it disciplinary process to punish Dailyda for his protected political expression.”

Stockton has confirmed that an investigation into Dailyda has been launched, but has not commented further, citing privacy laws.

This piece was written by PoliZette Staff on August 10, 2020. It originally appeared in LifeZette and is used by permission.

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