Stockton University has dropped 5 of the 6 charges against a graduate student that was facing disciplinary action for making his Zoom background a photo of President Donald Trump and for a subsequent political Facebook post defending his freedom of expression.
This week, Stockton administrators dropped five of the six charges against the student, Robert Dailyda, who was initially investigated for a political Facebook post and a Zoom background of President Trump, which, according to the school, caused students “to feel offended, disrespected, and taunted.”
Stockton is still charging the student with disruptive behavior, according to a statement by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which wrote a letter to the school outlining Stockton’s obligation as a publicly-funded institution to respect its students’ First Amendment rights.
“Stockton now claims student’s Facebook status, not his Zoom background of Trump, is the ‘substantial disruption’ warranting the charge,” said FIRE, adding that the student “still faces probation, community service, a decision-making workshop, and a fine for expressing his political opinion on social media.”
FIRE added that if found guilty, Stockton’s proposed minimum sanctions for the student include a semester of probation, community service, and a $50 fine. The student might also have to take a “decision making workshop.”
In a Facebook post, Dailyda wrote in part, “I’m ready to fight to the death for our country and against those that want to take it down.”
FIRE’s Zach Greenberg said that “dropping some of the charges is a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough.”
“Stockton has no business investigating the political speech of its students, and FIRE will continue to defend Robert’s speech rights,” continued Greenberg.
“Stockton provided no evidence that Robert’s post caused a substantial disruption,” added Greenberg. “FIRE again calls on the university to abandon its misguided desire to squelch political expression.”
In response to a media inquiry from Breitbart News, a Stockton spokesperson told said that “the federal education privacy law (FERPA) prohibits Stockton University from providing information about the case.”
“I can only confirm that Mr. Dailyda is a graduate student at Stockton University and is involved in an internal student Code of Conduct case. That case is open and no disciplinary action has been taken,” the spokesperson added.