A college student at Fordham University in New York was punished and forced to undergo “political reeducation” this summer for two Instagram posts – one of which depicted the student holding an AR-15.
Austin Tong is a rising senior at Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business, and he accused the school of “Soviet-style interrogation and punishment.”
“I am no longer permitted on campus, with public safety coming to my home at midnight to question me on the day of the post, and face forced political reeducation through mandatory courses and to write an apology letter, or will face full suspension or expulsion – is this happening in America, or is this a Soviet nightmare?” he asked in a letter to the school.
The Instagram post in question depicts Tong holding a Smith & Wesson M&P AR-15 and standing in his back yard.
The caption reads “Don’t tread on me. #198964,” which is a reference to both the Gadsden flag and the Tienanmen Square massacre. Tong is from a Chinese immigrant family, and he says the post was intended to express appreciation for his Second Amendment rights.
“To everyone and @fordhamuniversity: this post or my mentality is SOLELY for the memory of the thousands of armless students who had no method of defense and were massacred in 6.4.1989, and in no way advocating violence to anyone,” Tong said in a follow-up comment.
“This post is my appreciation toward the United States and the privilege in this country to have the right to bear arms, to have a populace that can defend itself from tyranny. Tiananmen Incident is a huge deal in my motherland and to my ethnicity, and so is civil rights in America, but this post is solely my belief that freedom comes from a strong and armed populace. Violence against any citizen should not be tolerated, and the Second Amendment protects us from that.”
The university wasn’t convinced by his explanation. They found him guilty of violating university policies banning “threats/intimidation.”
They also claimed he violated “regulations relating to bias and/or hate crimes” for a separate post depicting slain police officer David Dorn that included the caption, “Y’all a bunch of hypocrites.”
This post came following a riot protesting the death of George Floyd during which Dorn was killed protecting a pawn shop. Tong claims the post was simply expressing frustration that Dorn’s death was given less attention than Floyd’s.
“The content of both posts are fully by my love for this country, fully within the boundaries of law and university code, and in no way expressing threatening or hateful thoughts – yet the University subjectively and maliciously assumed my intentions as hate crime and threat,” Tong said.
Fordham placed Tong on disciplinary probation that will last until he graduates. He is banned from representing the university in any extracurricular activities or running for or holding leadership roles in student organizations. He can no longer enter the university campus without the dean’s permission (which must be requested one businesses day before he plans to be on campus), and he has to finish the remainder of the school year through remote learning. He must also complete “implicit bias” training with the Office of Multicultural Affairs and write an apology letter.
“Coming to this country as an immigrant, one would think that America is a nation of law and free speech. Yet that is no longer the case,” Tong wrote in his letter to Fordham leadership. “I was forcibly silenced, faced verbal and assaulting harassment from mobs, and subjected to Soviet-style interrogation and punishment by a Jesuit university that claims in its own code of conduct, that it protects ‘freedom of expression and the open exchange of ideas.’”
The University refused to comment on Tong’s letter or rescind their decision, so Tong has decided to sue the school. He has vowed to take the fight all the way to the Supreme Court, and he’s set up a Go Fund Me to cover legal expenses.