University drops conduct code charges against student who used Trump background

A Stockton University student faced conduct code charges after he used a Zoom background of President Donald Trump.

After intervention from one student rights group, the university has dropped all but one charge.

Stockton University doctoral student Robert Dailyda faced student conduct code charges after using a photo of President Donald Trump as his virtual background on Zoom during an online class. Now, after mounting public and legal pressure, the school has dropped all but one charge.

As Campus Reform previously reported, the Stockton administration charged Dailyda with violating the “disruptive behavior, discrimination, harassment, hostile environment, causing harm and cyberbullying” provisions of the university’s student code of conduct. The university cited a Facebook post from Dailyda in which he vowed to “fight to the death for our country and against those that want to take it down.” 

The school said at least one other student found the post “threatening” and reported it to university officials.

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Following intervention from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Stockton administration announced that the university had dropped five of the six charges against Dailyda. However, the student could still face up to one semester of community service, academic probation, and a $50 fine. He could also have to attend a “social justice workshop,” according to FIRE.

The university is still moving ahead with the “disruptive behavior” charge.

“FIRE urges Stockton to adhere to First Amendment obligations by rescinding the remaining charges against Dailyda,” FIRE Individual Rights Defense Program Officer Zachary Greenberg said in a second letter to Stockton University.

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In an email to Campus Reform, Greenburg said that “by seeking to punish Mr. Dailyda for his political expression, Stockton University betrays its obligation to uphold the First Amendment rights of its students. FIRE urges Stockton to abandon its misguided desire to squelch its students’ free speech rights. We remain confident that Stockton will see the light and rescind the remaining disciplinary charge against Mr. Dailyda.”

Greenburg further stated that the protocols taken by the Stockton administration reflect poorly on the college’s overall reputation. 

“Suppressing the political expression of its students reflects poorly on Stockton—especially as we approach an election season where students will undoubtedly seek to express themselves on a wide variety of public issues. Upon seeing how Stockton has treated Mr. Dailyda, Stockton students may justifiably refrain from engaging in political advocacy and self-censor accordingly—a disastrous result at a public university bound to safeguard students’ free speech rights,” Greenburg concluded.

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