Senior U.S. District Judge Norman Moon granted the University’s motion for a summary judgment in the case of Kieran Ravi Bhattacharya v. James B. Murray, Jr., et al., Friday. Former medical student Kieran Bhattacharya was dismissed from the University’s School of Medicine in 2018 and later sued the school claiming he was dismissed for asking Beverly Colwell Adams — then-assistant dean of students and associate professor of psychology — several questions about whether microaggressions could only be directed toward members of a marginalized group at a panel event.
Moon ruled Bhattacharya was dismissed following a series of behavioral issues rather than for the content of his statements at the panel. In the opinion, Moon said there was no connection between Bhattacharya’s dismissal and an attempt to obstruct his right to freedom of speech.
“Simply put, discovery has failed to produce a single piece of evidence indicating that Defendants retaliated against plaintiff because of his protected speech,” the opinion reads.
The opinion concluded the reason for Bhattacharya’s dismissal was that he was “repeatedly involuntarily committed to mental health institutions for threatening others” — incidents that happened to occur around the same time as his statements at the panel.
In an email to The Cavalier Daily, University spokesman Brian Coy emphasized that the case is about behavioral issues, not Bhattacharya’s right to free speech.
“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,” Coy said.
Following the panel, Assoc. Urology Professor Nora Kern filed a Professionalism Concern Card against Bhattacharya to document an alleged violation of the Medical School’s professionalism standards. Bhattacharya was later required to go to Counseling and Psychological Services prior to attending his classes.
On Nov. 28, 2018, the Academic Standards and Achievement Committee voted unanimously to suspend Bhattacharya, allowing him to petition to return to Grounds in August 2019.
The University Police Department also issued a No Trespass Order against Bhattacharya on Dec. 30, 2018, which prohibited him from entering or remaining on University of Medical Center property. According to University policy on the Issuance of Trespass Warnings, a No Trespass Order lasts four years after the date on which it was served and can be re-issued prior to the expiration of the original order.
Bhattacharya later filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia in September 2019, citing the University’s violation of free speech, deprivation of due process, conspiracy to interfere with civil rights and conspiracy to injure his trade, business and profession. Only the First Amendment violation allegation proceeded in court.
Coy said the University will continue to uphold the First Amendment rights of all members of the community.
“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,” Coy said. “We are pleased that the judge has granted the University’s motion in this case.”