Lawyer Defends Fordham Student from University Witch Hunt for Social Media Posts
Fordham student Austin Tong made his fellow students freak out over two social media posts he published on Instagram last month.
In one post, he praised the recently slain police officer David Dorn, who was killed during protests in St. Louis, Missouri.
In another post, Tong posted a picture of himself carrying an AR-15 where he brought awareness to the Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989 — a totalitarian crackdown facilitated by the Chinese Communist Party.
Since posting these photos, Tong has been facing backlash from the Fordham student body. In addition, Fordham administrators have jumped in to investigate these posts. Assistant Vice Principle and Dean of Students Keith Eldredge conducted a hearing and inquiry less than week after Tong made the posts. Elderdge did so claiming that “members of the Fordham community felt threatened by the social media posts,” according to court papers in a lawsuit that he filed against Fordham University at the Manhattan Supreme Court.
Eldredge ended up placing sanctions against Tong and threatened to expel him, according to the lawsuit’s allegations. Tong is now asking a judge to reverse the sanctions by justifying his posts as free speech, which are protected in accordance to school policy and the constitution.
On July 14, Eldredge sent a letter to Tong with claims that Tong allegedly committed a “Violation of University Regulations relating to Bias and/or Hate Crimes,” and “Threats/Intimidation.”
In addition, the letter stated that Tong would be receiving disciplinary probation. This includes a ban from extracurricular activities, student office, student groups, and sports in the following school year. The court papers stated that if Tong breaks the rules of his probation he could face expulsion or suspension.
Tong must also complete the school year online and receive permission to go on campus. The Fordham student must also take bias training and write an apology letter.
Tong is of the opinion that “draconian” punishments have sullied his reputation at school where he is now “treated liked a criminal,” according to the court filing.
Tong is standing strong and said he won’t attend the bias training or write the apology letter because “he plainly did not violate any Fordham policies … and should not have to submit to punishment for exercising his constitutional rights,” the court papers stated.
“Fordham’s disgraceful, Orwellian actions against our client are exactly why President Trump signed an Executive Order in 2019 specifying that schools can lose their federal taxpayer funding for violating their own free speech policies,” Tong’s lawyer Brett Joshpe said to The New York Post. “Intellectual tyranny within the ranks of higher education–all for a mere $50,000 in annual tuition–must end right now.”
In a time when right wingers are often left hanging by the legal world and others, it’s good to see Tong receive legal support.