Stockton University has dropped all charges against a graduate student 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.
On Tuesday, administrators at Stockton University dropped the final charge pending against Robert Dailyda, a student investigated for a political post on Facebook and a Zoom background image of President Trump, according to a statement by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).
According to the school, Dailyda’s background photo on Zoom caused students “to feel offended, disrespected, and taunted.”
FIRE. an organization that advocates for First Amendment rights in education. wrote to the school outlining Stockton’s obligation as a publicly-funded institution to respect its students’ free speech rights.
On August 10, the university dropped five of the six charges against the student, but one charge remained, until Tuesday.
“Stockton finally did the right thing — but it shouldn’t take action from FIRE and negative publicity to get a public institution to uphold students’ First Amendment rights,” said Zach Greenberg, the author of FIRE’s letters to the school.
The student had faced a litany of potential punishments for his expression, including suspension, probation, community service, a $50 fine, and a mandatory “decision making workshop,” according to FIRE.
“I appreciate Stockton coming to realize that they overreacted to my actions,” said Dailyda. “However, I am appalled that it required me to take the steps to enlist FIRE to assist me in overcoming these unjust charges.”
“I remain concerned that there are others who reached out to me in this process who don’t have the wherewithal to push back in their own cases,” he added. I am hopeful that positive change will result from this case.”