A former University of Louisville Medical School student filed a lawsuit against the university claiming that he was expelled for his pro-life views.
Former student Austin Clark filed a lawsuit against the university’s President Neeli Bendapudi and 13 other staff members arguing that the school condoned “demeaning and harassing behavior” and expelled him on behalf of his pro-life views.
Clark was a rising fourth-year medical student and president of the Medical Students for Life group on campus. He “holds traditional Christian beliefs and conservative political beliefs which medical schools tend to discriminate against and/or hold biases toward.”
Clark’s pro-life views drew attention from medical school faculty in November 2018 when he hosted Christian speaker Alex McFarland. During his speech, McFarland stated that life begins at conception. According to the lawsuit, the event generated “substantial opposition from many faculty and students.” Some people went so far as to tear down flyers about the event.
The lawsuit claims that following the campus speaking event, instructors began to treat Clark differently. Allegations range from academic punishment to claims of physical harassment.
One conversation became particularly testy when Obstetrics and Gynecology instructor, Thomas Neely, allegedly called Clark “stupid” and questioned whether his “brain was working.” Clark told the instructor that “you are not going to treat me that way” and “you are the worst preceptor I have ever had.”
Clark dubbed the comments “demeaning” and “derogatory.” The lawsuit alleged that these comments were part of a pattern of poor behavior “directed toward medical students and trainees … behavior that is particularly hostile against religious and conservative students.”
The school allegedly took no issue with the instructor’s comments, though Clark’s behavior was deemed “unprofessional.”
Following the interaction, Neeley allegedly forced Clark to sit in a chair in the hallway and speak through the doorway. Clark claims that the poor treatment from his professors led to a decline in his mental health.
In September 2019, Assistant Dean Olivia Mittel required Clark to sign a “professional contract” with the school — a contract that no other students were asked to sign — if he wished to return to his class. Mittel told Clark that he could either take a medical leave from the school due to his growing depression or face the “Student Promotions Committee” to “face potential dismissal from the Medical School.”
Clark opted to face the student committee, which ultimately recommended that Clark be dismissed from the school.
The lawsuit argues that the comments that Clark made were not within the university’s right to regulate.
“Clark neither denies nor disputes that the [university] has a pedagogical interest in enforcing ‘professionalism’ standards, but Clark’s expressions were not made at inappropriate times or places, nor were his comments disruptive or offensive, nor did they undermine the school’s basic educational mission, nor did they infringe upon the rights of others … that in any way can be reasonably regulated by the University.”
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