Last month, I wrote about a freedom of speech case dealing with a student who was reprimanded by his college for sharing his religious beliefs on campus. This week, the woke movement was dealt another stinging blow when the United States District Court of the Western District of Virginia ruled that Kieran Bhattacharya’s suit against his former school should be permitted to proceed.
In October of 2018, Bhattacharya attended a panel discussion revolving around the use of microaggressions at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. At the conclusion of the presentation, Bhattacharya raised his hand to ask if a victim of a microaggression is required to be a member of a marginalized group. The speaker, assistant dean Beverly Cowell Adams, disagreed, but Bhattacharya pointed out that her slides read differently. The difference in opinion led to a short intellectual disagreement that remained respectful throughout. Nonetheless, a co-organizer of the event felt as though Bhattacharya’s inquisitiveness was overly offensive and filed a “professionalism concern card” with the University. Nora Kern, the assistant professor who filed the complaint described the incident as follows: “This student asked a series of questions that were quite antagonistic toward the panel. 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.” Eventually, the school’s progressive mob generated an attack against the innocent student, which led to a mandate from the university that required Bhattacharya to be evaluated by psychological services before returning to class. The student attempted to gain more information about the charges levied against him, but the University of Virginia used this as evidence of his wrongdoing, calling his behavior “extremely defensive” and “aggressive” at his hearing. At this point, faculty at the University of Virginia had become so offended over a simple question that contradicted their beliefs that they were attempting to remove the student from school. Following the hearing, Bhattacharya was ultimately suspended on December 30 and police escorted him away from the campus.
Bhattacharya filed suit against UVA for violating his First Amendment rights by preventing him from speaking his mind. The university filed a motion to dismiss the suit, but the district court dismissed the motion and allowed the case to proceed.
For the sake of individual thought, advocacy groups should come to Bhattacharya’s aid and ensure that UVA takes responsibility for its role in advocating censorship on its campus. When questioning the popular narrative becomes a crime punishable by expulsion, students are forced into compliance by fear. The whole situation is reminiscent of a certain novel penned by George Orwell in which citizens are punished for “crimethink” and removed from society as a result.