Angela Bryant, diagnosed with Bipolar I and PTSD in January of 2020, was an associate professor of sociology at Ohio State University, until she found out that she had submitted an angry letter of resignation during a manic episode in November of the same year. Horrified, when she tried to rescind her resignation, Ohio State refused to let her back, even though she had recovered through therapy and medication, and had the backing of many of her colleagues and her therapist to go back to work. Turning to the law did not help either: the Ohio Civil Rights Commission ruled that Bryant’s case was not discrimination, as she had not submitted formal documentation of her disability to the university. The reality, however, was that the aggressive letter to the chair of the sociology department, with whom Bryant was on good terms, was clearly out of character and an indication that something was wrong. This case has caused criticism from within the university, but the institution’s sole response is that the decision should be left to the professionals. At the same time, school officials hold that Ohio State is an equitable space for its faculty and students.
It is quite easy to see that Ohio State is vainly trying to deflect. Moreover, the court ruling relies almost completely on semantics. It’s hard to decide which is more pathetic – the school’s lack of mental health policy, or their efforts to pretend that they’re not at fault. To the school’s credit, it is possible that there are extenuating circumstances to which the public is not privy, but it would be naïve to just leave it at that. It is very hard to believe that the university wholeheartedly believed that Bryant was in her right mind when she sent her resignation letter, if it was indeed as uncharacteristic as the article asserts. Perhaps the school was looking for a reason to get rid of her, as she had been excused from her teaching since her diagnosis in order to receive treatment. Whatever the exact reasons, the university took advantage of the lack of legal infrastructure concerning mental health, and that is unacceptable. Almost as unacceptable as the judicial lapse which cemented Bryant’s unjust fate.