Fordham Requires Escort for Student Who Posed With Gun

School says Instagram photo was threatening

Fordham University
August 12, 2020

A Fordham University student who was kicked off campus for posing with a legally owned firearm won't be allowed back without an escort.

Austin Tong, a rising senior who posted a picture of himself on Instagram holding an AR-15 rifle with the caption, "Don't tread on me," in commemoration of the Tiananmen Square massacre, said that a "KGB overseer" would have to escort him to and from classes if he wants to return to campus in the fall.

"Fordham graciously offered me a realistic historical simulation of being overseen by the Soviet secret police," Tong told the Washington Free Beacon. "This just exposes the sensitivity of Fordham and colleges on safe speech, resorting to extreme means to make sure students stay in line."

Tong filed a lawsuit against Fordham on July 23 alleging that the university violated its own free speech policies when it disciplined him for posing in "non-threatening social media posts on Instagram." The suit demands that the school lift the sanctions, which require him to leave campus indefinitely, apologize for the picture, and undergo implicit bias training.

Fordham argued that the photograph ran afoul of its commitment to combating bias and hate crimes. Tong, a Chinese immigrant, said he will not apologize for the photo because it does not pose a threat to his peers.

In response to the lawsuit, Fordham withdrew its restraining order against Tong pending the court's ruling. It also said that it would not require an apology note or implicit bias training before Tong's return to campus but claimed that it was reasonable to require him to be escorted by a public safety officer to and from his on-campus destination. In addition, Tong must seek permission 48 hours in advance of his arrival.

Fordham did not respond to requests for comment.

Tong told the Free Beacon that he will not return to campus despite the withdrawal of the restraining order. "I'm probably not going back to campus," Tong said. "I don't think [the school or my peers] want to see me either. Frankly, it's not safe."