April 7, 2021

TIME TO DEFUND HIGHER EDUCATION? 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.

Meanwhile, I wonder if Sara Rasmussen’s “professionalism concern card” might have been motivated by racism. Such a disproportionate response to a man named Bhattacharya raises questions, no?

Plus:

UVA’s administration engaged in behavior that can be described as “gaslighting.” Administrators asserted that Bhattacharya had behaved aggressively when he hadn’t, and then cited his increasing confusion, frustration, and hostility toward the disciplinary process as evidence that he was aggressive. And all of this because Bhattacharya asked an entirely fair question about microaggressions, a fraught subject.

His lawsuit contends that UVA violated his First Amendment rights by retaliating against him for speaking his mind. UVA filed a motion to dismiss the case, but a district court judge ruled that the suit could proceed.

“Bhattacharya sufficiently alleges that Defendants retaliated against him,” wrote the court. “Indeed, they issued a Professionalism Concern Card against him, suspended him from UVA Medical School, required him to undergo counseling and obtain ‘medical clearance’ as a prerequisite for remaining enrolled, and prevented him from appealing his suspension or applying for readmission.”

It is vital that UVA lose this case, and lose badly. Students must have the right to question administrators about poorly formed concepts from social psychology without fearing that they will be branded as threats to public order. That’s the difference between a public university and an asylum.

The difference is harder and harder to discern.

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