I am about to conclude that schools and universities keep attempting to unconstitutionally smother students’ freedom of speech and expression because they think eventually the culture will just give in and let them enforce viewpoint conformity.
In the alternative, the people who run these institutions are just dumb as a box of nutcrackers.
Let’s take Stockton College in New Jersey, for example.
Doctoral student Robert Dailyda used a photo of the President of the United States as his Zoom background during a July 1 virtual class. Some students complained, and he administration wrote in an incident report that the photo caused students “to feel offended, disrespected, and taunted.” Such students should have been told, in no uncertain terms, “Donald Trump is President of the United States, and the elected leader of the government of the nation in which you live. If his picture makes you feel offended, disrespected, and taunted, feel free to visit the campus mental health facilities. In the alternative, grow the hell up.”
Instead, ten days later and being Summa Cum Ethics Dunces, Stockton’s administrators called the student in “on the carpet” to justify his political views, claiming that students were offended by the Zoom background of the Evil POTUS, Dailyda’s comments in the subsequent GroupMe chat in which he was attacked by other students in the class, and his subsequent Facebook post defending his rights to express his opinion. The university claimed that students also found that post “offensive, threatening, and concerning.”
The “offensive, threatening, and concerning” post read,
Six days later, Stockton charged Dailyda with violating the code of conduct for disruptive behavior, discrimination, harassment, creating a hostile environment, causing harm, and cyber-bullying. At a pre-hearing interview on July 31, an administrator listed potential sanctions for the charges, including: “[s]uspension, $50 fine, community service project, social justice workshop, and decision making workshop.”
Yes, Stockton is run by censorious, speech-chilling, GroupThink-enforcing assholes who apparently have never read the Bill of Rights, much less respect it. Fortunately, the campus speech champions at The Foundation For Individual Rights in Education are on the case. In its letter to the apparently clueless administrators, FIRE explains Stockton’s obligation as a public institution to respect students’ First Amendment rights, and reminds Stockton administrators that the First Amendment even protects offensive expression, which Dailyda’s is not by any rational standards.
But the self-righteous of the Left and the Trump-Deranged no longer have rational standards.
Here, in its entirety, is FIRE’s letter. It begins,
FIRE is concerned by the disciplinary charges leveled by Stockton University against doctoral student Robert Dailyda over his political Facebook post and choice of Zoom background during class. These charges violate Stockton University’s obligations under the First Amendment and must be withdrawn.
Regarding the Trump background, the 15 page slam-dunk letter states in part,
Here, there is no indication that Dailyda’s symbolic political expression amounted to a “material and substantial” disruption of the class. Students engaged in “heated” discussion about the expression in a later conversation, but the fact that expression “caused discussion outside of the classrooms” is not disruption.Nor is the “silent, passive ‘witness of . . .’”expression sufficient to remove the expression from the First Amendment’s embrace. Indeed, the Tinker majority rejected the dissent’s complaint that the black armbands may have taken “the students’ minds off their classwork and diverted them to thoughts about the highly emotional subject of the Vietnam war.”The complaint against Dailyda is void of any suggestion that his silent display caused any interruption to the class itself.
Regarding the Facebook post, FIRE concludes,
Dailyda’s Facebook post is clearly political hyperbole meriting the highest level of First Amendment protection. His Facebook post does not demonstrate a serious intent to harm any particular person or group—as Dailyda stated multiple times to police officers and Stockton administrators. To the contrary, pledging to “fight to the death for” a cause is a common rhetorical expression underscoring the sincerity of the speaker’s loyalty. No reasonable person would read it as a serious expression of an intent to undertake violence.
The letter concludes,
III. Stockton Must Rescind the Disciplinary Charges Filed Against Dailyda.
The expression here is clearly protected. It did not disrupt any university activity, nor does it amount to an unprotected true threat or harassment. Dailyda received “heated” criticism from his fellow students outside of class—a form of “more speech,” the remedy to offensive expression that the First Amendment prefers to censorship47—but the university itself acknowledges that he sought to avoid conflict. Stockton may not permissibly use its disciplinary process to punish Dailyda for his protected political expression. Given the urgent nature of this matter, we request receipt of a response to this letter no later than the close of business on Tuesday, August 11, confirming that Stockton has abandoned pursuit of the charges against Dailyda.
Your move, dummies.