There has been a free speech controversy raging at Stockton University in New Jersey after doctoral student Robert Dailyda was hit by six student code of conduct charges after he used a picture of President Donald Trump as a back drop to a zoom class. Various students called the background a form of hate speech and a threat. The school has now dropped five of the six charges but the remaining charge still constitutes a denial of free speech on social media. The school maintains that Dailyda can be disciplined for saying that he would “fight to the death for our country.”Dailyda was originally charged with disruptive behavior; discrimination; harassment; hostile environment; harm; and bullying and cyberbullying. This follow a series of complaints over his use of the Trump background. Students objected that the image of Trump made them “feel offended, disrespected, and taunted.”
The remaining charge relates to a Facebook post in which Dailyda wrote saying that he would “fight to the death for our country.” The posting was deemed to be disruptive behavior, which can lead to minimum punishments including probation, community service and a fine.
The group Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) objected to the University:
“[B]oasting a willingness to ‘fight to the death for our country’ is rhetorical hyperbole often deployed to underscore the speaker’s unwillingness to concede an argument or position. As a public university, Stockton must tread carefully on metaphorical political rhetoric; we hope that this is not the hill Stockton wants to die on.”
“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 county and against those that want to take it down. I believe there are also many like me.”
This post generated comments, one which was of concern in response to Mr. Dailyda saying “I’m surprised how many people are quiet…maybe not…”, this post stated “Bob Dailyda that’s what we do. (Quiet) but …we aim with precision. Boom done. No drama.” This response was not written or responded to by Mr. Dailyda but the reporting parties did mention the words sounded threatening and they were concerned that Mr. Dailyda may have similar views and thoughts of violence.