A Fordham University student has been punished for posts he made on Instagram supporting the Second Amendment and drawing attention to the tragic death of David Dorn at the hands of looters in St. Louis.
Austin Tong, a senior at the university’s Gabelli School of Business, said that he has been restricted from campus and is being forced to undergo “political reeducation” over the posts, which university officials have claimed are hateful and threatening.
One of the posts was made on June 3 after a violent weekend in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody. In the post, Tong wrote: “Y’all a bunch of hypocrites” beneath a photo of David Dorn, a retired black police officer.
Dorn was killed while trying to defend a pawn shop from looters during the Black Lives Matter riots. Tong’s comment referred to the fact that the tragedy was not given the same type of public attention that Floyd’s death received, possibly because Dorn’s accused killer is black.
The second post that caused drama featured a photo of Tong holding a legally purchased rifle at his home with a caption reading, “Don’t tread on me. #198964.” The numbers refer to the date of the Tiananmen Square massacre, in which the communist regime of China ordered its troops to open fire on a crowd of hundreds of thousands of demonstrators who had gathered in Beijing in favor of democracy.
Tong said that he was not trying to threaten to harm anybody with the image. Instead, he wanted to mourn the lives that were lost in the horrific incident and celebrate Americans’ right to bear arms. Tong is a U.S. citizen who comes from a family of Chinese immigrants.
On the evening of June 4, Tong received an unexpected midnight visit from public safety officers, who asked him about his posts and his possession of a firearm. After a month-long investigation, the University decided that had violated its code of conduct and should be punished.
He has been banned from representing the school in extracurricular activities and holding any leadership roles within student organizations as part of a “disciplinary probation” that will be in place until he graduates. In addition, he’s not allowed to go on campus without permission from the Dean; he’ll be required to finish the school year via remote learning.
He is also being required to undergo “implicit bias” training from the university’s Office of Multicultural Affairs in what he has described as a “Soviet nightmare.” He must also write an apology letter. Failure to comply will see him suspended or expelled from the school.
Fordham’s code of conduct says that it protects “freedom of expression and the open exchange of ideas.” A group of students won a free speech lawsuit against the university last year when it tried to stop them from forming a pro-Palestinian club on campus. In the court’s opinion on that case, New York State Supreme Court Justice Nancy Bannon wrote: “The consideration and discussion of differing views is actually part of Fordham’s mission, regardless of whether that consideration and discussion might discomfit some and polarize others.”
Tong posted an open letter to the Fordham Board of Trustees on his Instagram account asking them to retract his punishment and apologize to him. If that doesn’t happen, he said he intends to take legal action against the university over the disciplinary action.
Tong said: “America is under attack. Americans are being silenced. I hope to use my punishment as a milestone and reflection of the Constitutional crisis we are facing today as a society.” He added that America is often thought of by immigrants as a country of free speech and law, but that is no longer true.
Sources for this article include: