I've filed an official complaint against my university, but it was because they wouldn't allow me to retract a grievance that I filed against a professor during an acute mental health episode.

However, this is also the only university in my city, and I don't want to relocate because I love it here. So despite all the negativity I've experienced with them, I sometimes consider applying there for graduate school so I can pursue a grad. degree without relocating. I think I'm a good candidate academically, however, I'm assuming they're going to try to find some reason to reject me. If they do and I can prove that I was an otherwise strong candidate, would I have a case against them for retaliation?

Edit- I wanted to specify that this is in the US


If One Files an Official Complaint Against or Sues a University, Is It Retaliation if They Reject Your Application?

Not necessarily. Retaliation has to do with the criterion that prompts an adverse decision, not the decision itself. You are asking about the event of rejection itself, which might be lawful nonetheless.

You mention that you are a good candidate academically. That might not suffice, though, since it is lawful for universities and many others kinds of entities to ponder some criteria in addition to applicants' purely academic profile. Such criteria might include those which realistically subject others to safety risks.

It is unclear from your post whether that university is a public one and the legislation puts it in the category of "arm of the state". If so, the university will certainly resort to the doctrine of sovereign immunity and have your case dismissed without even allowing you to pursue discovery. One effect of that doctrine is that a public university can blatantly indulge in many types of torts and wrongful conduct, and yet the court would not rule against it even if the evidence fully supports your claim(s).

Even if you overcome the issue of sovereign immunity or the doctrine is not applicable, the ensuing discovery proceedings might feel invasive to you. That is because procedural law would entitle the opposing party to conduct discovery on the matter of your mental health (my understanding is that the episode you mention refers to your mental health, but that is not entirely clear from your post). Pursuing this line of discovery is quite predictable insofar as the prior grievance and the alleged retaliation are premised on the acute mental health episode you mention.

Consequently, the university could prevail on grounds that your admission therein would pose a risk to faculty, students, and/or staff to the extent that the university cannot ensure the preemption of further episodes [involving you] that might hurt others in the university.

  • Thank you for the reply. Yes, this is a public university, and while I have complained to a state agency, I haven't (yet) sued them. Also, to clarify, I've never posed a safety risk to anyone. My anxiety disorder caused me to overreact to my perception of a professor's (mostly written) tone, and I later requested to have the grievance dismissed. – Gemini Jun 5 '20 at 9:53

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