Student Austin Tong has sued Fordham University after it put him on probation and ordered him to undergo “implicit bias training” over one of his Instagram posts commemorating the Tiananmen Square Massacre.
In the June 4, 2020 Instagram post, which was the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, Tong posted a photo of himself holding a legally-obtained gun to Instagram along with the caption: “Don’t tread on me #198964 ????.”
On June 3, Tong had also posted a photo of retired St. Louis police captain David Dorn, who was killed by looters during the George Floyd riots, with the caption: “Y’all a bunch of hypocrites” – a reference to his dismay at “the nonchalant societal reaction” to Dorn’s death.
The Instagram posts were investigated by the university’s Dean of Students and Tong was accused of “bias and/or hate crimes” and “threats/intimidation” by the university.
As punishment, he was put on probation, barred from visiting campus without prior approval, ordered to write an apology, and told to undergo implicit bias training. He was also threatened with “immediate suspension or expulsion” if he violated any of the terms.
We obtained a copy of the lawsuit for you.
The lawsuit states that Fordham University’s response to Tong’s Instagram posts was “in contravention of its own policies and rules equivocally committing the University to free expression” and has placed Tong in an “untenable position” where he must either “abandon his principled beliefs, forfeit his right to lawful expression, and submit to Fordham’s unconscionable discipline” or “face suspension or expulsion from Fordham, which would severely damage his future academic and employment prospects.”
It seeks to annul “any and all disciplinary sanctions or loss of Fordham student privileges” imposed against Tong “relating to or arising out of his social media posts and seeks the award of “damages incidental to the primary relief sought by Tong, for breach of implied contract by Fordham in connection with imposition of disciplinary sanctions against Tong.”
In an interview with One America News, Tong said: “I know what I’m doing is right. I’m not backing down. I’m not apologizing. We’re doing something that’s great and we will make free speech great again.”
Tong is one of several students who have faced punishment or pushback from universities over their social media posts with other students losing internships, being interrogated, or getting expelled because of what they posted online.
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