Student faces suspension for background image of

Trump on Zoom virtual classroom call

A Stockton University student is facing suspension after he included an image of President Trump on a Zoom conference call.

A representative from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) says the episode is part of a “depressing” trend of university students being punished for politically charged social media posts.

Doctoral student Robert Dailyda featured the Trump image as his screen background during a July 1 virtual class session. Several fellow students enrolled at the New Jersey college complained about the visuals in a private GroupMe conversation following the session.

The doctoral student also shared a post on Facebook criticizing Black Lives Matter and saying he’d fight to the death to preserve the United States, a la Patrick Henry.

The combination of events sparked a July 22 Code of Conduct Complaint about the “bias incident” filed by the university’s director of care and community standards. Some students felt “offended, disrespected, and taunted” by the Trump imagery, according to the complaint report, which did not identify the complaining students. The unnamed students added that the Facebook post in question smacked of racism and potential violence.

Zach Greenberg, a FIRE program officer and author of a letter to Stockton President Harvey Kesselman defending Dailyda, says university administrators asked “intrusive” political questions of the student during a July 10 interrogation.

Dailyda faced six charges, according to FIRE, including cyber bullying, disruptive behavior, discrimination, harassment and creating a hostile environment. The University dropped five of the six charges this week, but Dailyda still faces possible suspension.

A university spokeswoman said Dailyda’s case remains open and “no disciplinary action has been taken.”

“For a university to threaten to derail his academic career is really antithetical to the university’s mission statement,” says Greenberg, whose group defends the “individual rights of students and faculty members at America’s colleges and universities.”

“This is quintessential political speech meriting the highest level of protection,” he adds.

Greenberg says no university faculty or officials, to his knowledge, have rallied to Dailyda’s side during the imbroglio.

School officials have “created a deeply embedded and systematic environment that squelches the free speech of those who disagree with their radical agenda,” said Dailyda in a statement.

By Christian Toto

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