Bhattacharya Case Dismissed

by James A. Bacon

A federal judge has dismissed a case against the University of Virginia by a medical student who charged that university officials had retaliated against him for disputing the speaker’s logic in a panel discussion about microaggressions.

The plaintiff, Kieren Bhattacharya, “has nothing more than speculation to support his claim,” wrote Judge Norman K. Moon with the U.S. District Court in Charlottesville. “He has not unearthed even a scintilla of evidence that would demonstrate that Defendants took any adverse action against him because of his protected speech.”

Bhattacharya’s case generated a flurry of attention among conservative media, including Bacon’s Rebellion, when it was filed more than a year ago. The med school student described an event at which he critiqued the logic of a faculty member opining on the subject of microaggressions. He expressed the view that “a microaggression is entirely dependent on how the person who’s receiving it is reacting” rather than how the statement was intended. The incident prompted a colleague to file a “professionalism concern card,” after which ensued a train of administrative hearings, Bhattacharya’s involuntary commitment to a mental health facility, the issuance of a no-trespass order banning him from the university Grounds, and his subsequent expulsion from med school.

Evidence entered by UVa highlighted Bhattacharya’s mental health issues and made the case that the administrative hearings and other actions concerned words and actions unrelated to the microaggression event. The Hawaii native suffered from bipolar disorder and exhibited aggressive behavior toward his mother and ex-girlfriend. The colleague who filed the professionalism concern card, UVa argued, was motivated not by the substance of his observations about microaggressions but by his demeanor.

“Even viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, and drawing every reasonable inference in his favor,” wrote Moon, “the Court cannot identify any evidence in the record that could reasonably support a jury verdict in his favor.”

University of Virginia spokesman Brian Coy issued the following statement:

Throughout this case, the University has stated plainly in court filings that administrators’ actions with respect to Mr. Bhattacharya stemmed from concerns about his behavior and mental health and bore no relation to his public statements, which were protected by the First Amendment.

The University has and will continue to promote and protect the rights of community members to express their ideas and to challenge ideas with which they disagree. We are pleased that the judge has granted the University’s motion in this case.