“I am shocked that a med student would show so little respect toward faculty members. It worries me how he will do on wards.”
A medical student at the University of Virginia attended a talk on microaggressions in 2018 and asked questions that were deemed problematic. He was subsequently banned from campus.
A court just ruled that his lawsuit against the school can proceed.
Robby Soave writes at Reason:
A Medical Student Questioned Microaggressions. UVA Branded Him a Threat and Banished Him from Campus.
Kieran Bhattacharya is a student at the University of Virginia (UVA) School of Medicine. On October 25, 2018, he attended a panel discussion on the subject of microaggressions. Dissatisfied with the definition of a microaggression offered by the presenter—Beverly Cowell Adams, an assistant dean—Bhattacharya raised his hand.
Within a few weeks, as a result of the fallout from Bhattacharya’s question about microagressions, the administration had branded him a threat to the university and banned him from campus. He is now suing UVA for violating his First Amendment rights, and a judge recently ruled that his suit should proceed.
Here was what the student said.
“Thank you for your presentation,” said Bhattacharya, according to an audio recording of the event. “I had a few questions, just to clarify your definition of microaggressions. Is it a requirement, to be a victim of microaggression, that you are a member of a marginalized group?”
Adams replied that it wasn’t a requirement.
Bhattacharya suggested that this was contradictory, since a slide in her presentation had defined microaggressions as negative interactions with members of marginalized groups.
It was this exchange that caught the notice of an assistant professor, who helped put on the event. She filed a sort of official complaint against him:
“This student asked a series of questions that were quite antagonistic toward the panel,” wrote Kern. “He pressed on and stated one faculty member was being contradictory. His level of frustration/anger seemed to escalate until another faculty member defused the situation by calling on another student for questions. I am shocked that a med student would show so little respect toward faculty members. It worries me how he will do on wards.”
What followed was a mandatory psychological evaluation and ultimately a suspension.
Here are some excerpts from the opinion that found his lawsuit can proceed:
Bhattacharya’s speech at the panel discussion—questioning and critiquing the theory of microaggression—does not clearly fall into any category of speech that UVA Medical School can regulate or prohibit. His comments and questions did not “materially disrupt classwork or involve substantial disorder or invasion of the rights of others.” Tinker, 393 U.S. at 513. Defendants argue that because “the purpose of the panel discussion was to teach students about a social issue in medicine, it was not the time or place for Plaintiff to dispute the validity of the subject matter, argue with faculty, or disparage a professor’s substantial research in the field.”…
Nor were Bhattacharya’s comments and questions at the panel “vulgar,” “lewd,” “indecent,” or “plainly offensive.” See Fraser, 478 U.S. at 685-86. Defendants argue that Bhattacharya’s comments meet these criteria because they were “insulting, disrespectful, and uncivil” to the faculty.
It’s difficult to believe this entire affair was started by questioning microaggressions.
Is this really what higher education was meant to be?
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