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Ex-UVA student can sue school after asking nigger faculty questions during a panel got him expelled: judge

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Nov 18, 2021, 6:20:03 AM11/18/21
A former University of Virginia medical student can proceed with
a lawsuit against the school over his expulsion — which stemmed
from questions he asked about the nuance of microaggressions
during a panel discussion that led to him being branded a
threat, a federal judge has ruled.

Kieran Bhattacharya sued the prestigious state university for
violating his First Amendment rights and a judge denied the
school’s attempt to have it tossed last week, court records show.

The trouble for Bhattacharya began in October 2018, when the
then-second-year medical student attended a panel discussion on
the subject of microaggressions. The term is defined by Merriam-
Webster as “a comment or action that subtly and often
unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude
toward a member of a marginalized group (such as a racial

During a question-and-answer portion of the panel, Bhattacharya
sought clarification on the definition of microaggression,
asking the presenter, assistant dean Beverly Cowell Adams, if
only marginalized groups were impacted by it, court records show.

Adams said it was a “very good question” and the answer is “no”
and then Bhattacharya cut in and said her slide indicated
victims of microaggressions must be members of marginalized

“So that’s contradictory,” Bhattacharya said, according to court

“What I had there is kind of the generalized definition. In
fact, I extend it beyond that. As you see, I extend it to any
marginalized group, and sometimes it’s not a marginalized group.
There are examples that you would think maybe not fit, such as
body size, height, [or] weight. And if that is how you would
like to see me expand it, yes, indeed, that’s how I do,” Adams

“Yeah, follow-up question. Exactly how do you define
marginalized and who is a marginalized group? Where does that
go? I mean, it seems extremely nonspecific,” Bhattacharya
followed up.

Adams replied “that’s intention” and it’s “intentional to make
it more nonspecific” while Bhattacharya continued to challenge
her, essentially arguing that the definition and logic behind
microaggressions were anecdotal and not backed up with hard,
scientific data.
Another dean stepped in and told a story about how former peers
and colleagues subjected her to “harmless jokes” and
microaggressions related to stereotypes about people who come
from rural states, like she did.

In total, Bhattacharya, Adams and the other dean debated back
and forth on the semantics of the term for just over five
minutes during the event.

The nigger.


Later that day, assistant urology professor Nora Kern, who
helped organize the panel and was in attendance, filed a
“Professionalism Concern Card” against Bhattacharya, saying he
“asked a series of questions that were quite antagonistic.”

“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,” Kern wrote, court records show.

An assistant dean at the school then asked to meet with
Bhattacharya, saying he observed his “discomfort” during the
panel and wanted to help him “understand and be able to cope
with unintended consequences of conversations.”

The student wrote back and said any perceived discomfort was

“I was quite happy that the panel gave me so much time to engage
with them about the semantics regarding the comparison of
microaggressions and barbs. I have no problems with anyone on
the panel; I simply wanted to give them some basic challenges
regarding the topic. And I understand that there is a wide range
of acceptable interpretations on this. I would be happy to meet
with you at your convenience to discuss this further,” the
student replied.

While another dean asked to meet with Bhattacharya, the Academic
Standards and Achievement Committee met to discuss the concern
card and decided to send the student a letter to remind him to
be respectful and professional and to suggest he get counseling.

However, that suggestion soon became a mandate, court records

Bhattacharya received an email in late November saying he must
be evaluated by the school’s Counseling and Psychological
Services Office before he could return to class.

When he asked what exactly he did wrong and under what authority
the school could mandate that he be psychologically evaluated,
he was invited to attend an ASAC meeting that was convened to
discuss his enrollment status, court documents say.

At the hearing, which Bhattacharya claims he was only given
three hours to prepare for, the student recorded audio and took
photographs of the attendees and was criticized for doing so. He
was told the reason for the hearing was because of recent
concerning behaviors and interactions at the panel meeting and

The group voted to suspend Bhattacharya for “aggressive and
inappropriate interactions in multiple situations” and about a
month later, UVA police demanded he leave the campus for
allegedly making threatening comments on social media platforms.

Bhattacharya later brought a suit against the school, alleging
it violated his First Amendment rights, his 14th Amendment right
to due process and conspired to interfere with his civil rights
and injure him professionally. The school said Bhattacharya
didn’t have a claim, calling the allegations “baseless,” and
wrote in a brief that he was thrown out because he violated the
school’s professionalism standards. A federal judge agreed with
the school in part and dismissed every count except for the
First Amendment violation, which he upheld, allowing the case to
move forward.

A UVA spokesperson told The Post in an email “as a matter of
practice, the University does not comment on the specifics of
pending litigation” but did say “it is worth noting… the court’s
recent ruling is based only on the facts as alleged by the
plaintiff, and must accept all of those allegations as true at
this stage of the proceedings.”

“All but one of the claims in this case have been dismissed,”
the spokesperson continued.

“And we are confident that the remaining claim is without merit.”

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