A second year medical student has been suspended from the University of Virginia after questioning his professors during a lecture on microaggressions.
Kieran Bhattacharya was suspended from the University of Virginia after the institution alleged Bhattacharya became “unnecessarily antagonistic and disrespectful” during a lecture Bhattacharya says was titled “Microaggressions: Why Are They So Sensitive.”
Bhattacharya published audio recordings, both of the classroom incident that led to his suspension, and of the following disciplinary hearing that led to his suspension.
In the classroom recording, as the lecture concluded and students are allowed to ask questions at approximately 28 minutes in, Bhattacharya took the opportunity to raise several concerns with the professor.
The student began by thanking the professor for the presentation, and then asked if one must be a member of a marginalized community to receive a migroaggression.
When the professor replied that one does not necessarily need to be a marginalized community to receive a migroaggression, Bhattacharya pointed out, abruptly, that her statement did not seem to follow with the definition she provided during the presentation.
“What I had there was kind of the generalized definition,” the professor said in response, “I extend it beyond that,” before adding that “sometimes it’s not a marginalized group.”
Bhattacharya accepted this point, and followed up with more questions about the professor’s definition of microaggression, asking whether a microaggression depends on the aggressor’s intent, or whether it depends on whether the person receiving the microaggression felt offended.
The professor rebounded to an earlier example made during the presentation, and the class moved on. The back-and-forth took about five minutes from Bhattacharya asking his first question, to the class moving to further questions.
Bhattacharya says he was then summoned by the University of Virginia’s Academic Standards and Achievement Committee for punishment.
During the half hour long meeting, Bhattacharya repeatedly asked what about his behavior was incorrect, and how to remedy it. He was criticized for his decision to record the lecture, and repeatedly told that his “this aggressive, threatening behavior” must be changed.
After repeatedly asking for examples of his unprofessional behavior, one committee member suggested his decision to record the meeting as an example.
At the end of the audio recording, Bhattacharya concluded by once again asking for specific examples of his behavior that were unprofessional, aggressive, or threatening, to which one member of the committee responded that he did not want to “parse words” with the student.
After the meeting, Bhattacharya says he was suspended from the university for one year, something from he claims “ends any chance [he has] of ever practicing medicine.”
Bhattacharya also alleges that after waiting the university’s mandatory 14-day period before he can appeal this decision, the institution has so far been unable or unwilling to process his appeal.
American college campuses have been under focus from conservatives in recent weeks, as the University of Missouri has come under fire during a new lawsuit that alleges a student was incorrectly suspended. In discovery, the university admitted that simply asking a classmate on a date may be considered sexual harassment.
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