University Deletes Comments Advocating for Hybrid Learning

Students express disappointment over Fordham’s decision to remove comments from its Instagram page



After students started criticizing Fordham in the comments on its Instagram post for not offering a hybrid option, the university responded by deleting negative comments.


Fordham’s announcement to conduct an in-person spring semester sparked a flood of comments on the university’s Instagram posts. Students were concerned about the safety of an in-person education due to the omicron variant spreading more rapidly than previous strains. The university’s account deleted many of the comments criticizing the lack of a hybrid option. 

Several people left comments on the university’s social media account, @fordhamuniversity, pushing Fordham to adopt a hybrid modality or to conduct the first two weeks of classes virtually before returning to campus. In addition to deleting these comments, Fordham also blocked the Instagram account @fordhampassfail, which is currently petitioning for a remote learning option for students. 

Isabella Frassetti, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’20 and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences ’21, commented on an Instagram post made by the university’s account on Jan. 6 with the caption, “We can’t wait for our Rams to bring life back to campus!” When she returned to the post a few hours later, Frassetti noticed that her comment, along with at least 20 to 30 others advocating for a hybrid option, had been deleted. 

“They need to have at least some regard or respect for how their students are feeling.” Isabella Frassetti, FCLC ’20 and GSAS ’22

“Maybe if you just offer hybrid learning or a capable administration, there would be more people happy and willing to come back to campus,” she commented on the Instagram post.

Frassetti saw that the comments left showed support of Fordham and noted that the university limited who can comment on posts. She believes the deletion of comments is also unfair to prospective students, as they only see positive comments and not the real reactions from students who are currently enrolled at Fordham. 

“I think they are trying to make their image into something that is only half true, where the other half is that they’re not listening to either their faculty or their students, and I’m just not okay with that,” she said. “They need to have at least some regard or respect for how their students are feeling.”

With Fordham deleting comments made on their Instagram account’s posts, Frassetti believes the Fordham Cares logo, which promotes the motto “each of us caring for the whole of us,” is ironic. 

John Lonie, FCLC ’22 and owner of @fordhampassfail, believes the university’s decision to block the Instagram account goes against cura personalis, a Jesuit value which is Latin for “caring for the whole person.” 

Lonie said that the university’s Instagram account blocked the pass/fail account on Dec. 7 without any prior notice. He believes the action was unwarranted because the account had not engaged in any behavior that would lead to that decision and that having access to the university’s Instagram account is important. 

“It is Fordham University; it is our school. We want to be able to have access to that information that everyone else does, and we discovered that they had blocked us for simply just existing,” he said. 

“Fordham’s social media platforms are not Reddit.” Bob Howe, assistant vice president for communications

Bob Howe, assistant vice president for communications, referenced the university’s social media policy and noted that students have multiple platforms in which they can express their points of view. However, Howe argued that the university’s social media platforms are official Fordham publications, and Fordham exercises editorial control over them. 

“Fordham’s social media platforms are not Reddit,” he said.  

Howe quoted two sections of Fordham’s social media policy in relation to the university’s Instagram account blocking @fordhampassfail as well as the deletion of comments regarding a hybrid option. The policy states that Fordham’s social media platforms are integral parts of its marketing and public relations. It adds that the university has the right to moderate comments without notice and delete comments that are clearly off-topic. 

The university’s social media policy acknowledges the existence of different viewpoints and seeks to promote academic freedom. 

“We welcome critical posts and opposing points of view, but users shall refrain from using profanity and from making personal attacks in any comments posted to University social media platforms,” the policy read.  

Lonie believes that the decision to block the account revolved around the onboarding of prospective students. 

He added that the account never did anything beyond repost Fordham’s posts and saying whether or not it approves or disapproves of a certain policy the university had implemented. 

“This is only my second semester at Fordham, and I’ve already seen how Fordham as an institution is being very oppressive toward most of its students.” Noran Shabana, FCLC ’23

Noran Shabana, FCLC ’23, believes that students aren’t being considered in the university’s decisions. 

“This is only my second semester at Fordham, and I’ve already seen how Fordham as an institution is being very oppressive toward most of its students,” she said. 

Shabana referred to the Instagram accounts advocating for a hybrid option and mentioned that the freedom of choice would be very helpful, but Fordham blocked those accounts and deleted any comments that they thought would somehow tarnish their image as an institution instead. 

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) ranked Fordham in the bottom 10 on its list of the worst colleges for free speech multiple years in a row. 

Adam Goldstein, a member of the senior research council at FIRE, referred to previous cases that contributed to this ranking, including the Austin Tong and the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) cases the university faced in court in 2020 and 2021, respectively. 

“Of course, in Fordham’s case, it’s pretty stark because of the SJP case and others where Fordham showed it was willing to interfere with student expression whenever it felt like it, whether or not it fit the rules they’d published,” he said.

Goldstein noted that lots of students encourage schools to build up speech-policing hierarchies but fail to acknowledge that the people who are enforcing these policies are not students and do not have the same agenda. 

“I do wonder if the students who praised Fordham’s handling of Austin Tong are beginning to realize that the question was never about what students should be allowed to post on Instagram but about whether Fordham should be the one deciding what students should post,” he said.

“We just hope that Fordham can unblock an account that is dedicated to just helping students.” John Lonie, FCLC ’22

Several students have directly messaged the Fordham pass/fail account regarding their comments being removed from the university’s page following Lonie’s acknowledgment of Fordham doing so. 

Lonie has directly messaged the university’s page through his personal account, along with deans at both FCLC and Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH). He noted that Laura Auricchio, dean of students at FCLC, has not responded about the new petition or the blocking, and he has yet to receive an email from any of the FCLC or FCRH deans he contacted.

“We just hope that Fordham can unblock an account that is dedicated to just helping students,” he said. 

Chloe Zelch contributed additional reporting to this story.