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New York violinist hospitalised after calling his professor a bitch

Oren Ungerleider, a PhD student at Columbia-Juilliard, is suing the university with a claim that he was forcibly held and medicated in a psychiatric hospital for 30 days after insulting his Spanish professor, who gave him a low mark.

After his icaceration he was not allowed to return to his studies and lost his appetite for playing the violin. His lawyer is claiming $10 million damages. More details here.

Here’s Oren before the incident, which took place in 2010.



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  1. What a bizarre tale. This young man needs help, and I hope he gets it.

    • Say what? You’ve never been angry enough in your life to curse at someone? And you truly believe that this is sufficient reason to order security personnel at 12:30 AM to pound on your door demanding to be let in order to drag to to a psychiatric hospital, and then when you don’t comply, they forcibly inject you with drugs? This is right out of the Soviet KGB play book!!!!!!

      I suggest you read two books to enlighten your darkened mind: George Orwell’s 1984 and Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago.

  2. Forcibly held for 30 days in a psychiatric hospital for calling his professor a bitch? And given psychotropic medications? This is a bit of a reach, even in pharmaceutical happy America. There’s got to be something we’re not being told here.

  3. Uh, Roberto Poli as a page turner.

  4. Doug is absolutely right. If the allegations of this young man are true, then what he went through is absolutely disgusting, and he should be suing the Columbia University, St. Luke’s Hospital, including Dr. Tara Malekshahi and the four doctors who forcibly medicated him, Professor Ruth Borgman, Dean Hazel May, Director Stephanie Dixon, and the NYPD and City of New York for $100 million not $10 million. False imprisonment and the manhandling of this person and non-consentual injection of drugs, as described here, should never be permitted in a civilized society that is supposed to be governed by the rule of law.

    Norman, thank you for posting information about this case, including the video of the young man’s playing, which shows that he had huge talent.

    • I forgot to ask where was Juilliard in all of this? Re: those who think the young man must have done something more to merit the response, one may not know until the case is tried, but, given how the deck is stacked against plaintiffs who sue powerful institutions, it is unlikely an attorney would take the case, even on a contingency basis, unless there were something there. Furthermore, Columbia Presbyterian and its sister hospitals and also the university have at times been notorious in violating patient and employee or student rights, so, absent more information, I would not presume that the hospital or university conducted themselves properly in this case.

  5. Marlene Kramer says:

    He should have said it in Spanish. It may have improved his grade.

  6. Paul D. Sullivan, Boston US says:

    This all sounds so incredibly bizarre, and it would seem that Mr. Ungerleider is not the only one to have this type of problem at Columbia. See here:

    Sounds bizarre and scary also.

    I’m sure young talented students are under incredible stress and tempers may fray, but an involuntary injection of Haldol! Perhaps all the facts are not known yet but still……… It all sounds so unreal.

    Here is a link from a Sudbury Ma. local paper about Mr. Ungerleider and his twin brother dating from 2006. Obviously very talented musicians.

    Hopefully we will learn more of the facts in this case.

  7. Actually, I do hope this young man gets help.

  8. There must be more to the story. There are people in all 50 states who are waiting to be admitted — no, BEGGING to be admitted — into psychiatric care facilities. It seems highly unlikely that he was given 30 days in a hospital and forcibly medicated simply for cursing at a teacher. Then again, I live in Vermont where forced medication is not allowed by law.

    • That’s exactly what I was thinking, Caroline. Who would have paid for this, especially in America where medical costs are through the roof?

  9. You can’t take this at face value, discovery will shed more light. Maybe his claims will hold up, maybe they won’t.

    As an aside, even on the basis of his own allegations (as described in the article), I think the student’s conduct raises red flags. Calling a professor a bitch to her face is unacceptable, period. I have never encountered anything like it as either a student or a professor– not at elite schools like Columbia, and also not at far less prestigious institutions. The description of his follow-up email to an administrator, in which he allegedly apologized but also “explained” that he had been unfairly graded suggests that he did not grasp just how out of line he was. He also seems to place himself above the professor and have no doubt that he is better capable than she is to judge whether his grade was deserved. This is not an uncommon dynamic–especially between male students and female professors–but his responses seem disproportionate. I can see how his actions could cause an administrator to be concerned about the student, and perhaps the professor who dared give this young man a bad grade.

    I realize I’m drawing inferences and the evidence may show that Columbia made huge judgment errors. I just want to point out that I don’t think these decisions are made lightly. For every suit like this one there is another lawsuit where kids harmed themselves or others and the plaintiffs say the university didn’t do enough in the face of clear signs of trouble.

    (I apologize for not posting under my own name; I don’t want my comments to be taken as a reflection on the university with which I am affiliated.)

  10. In New York, an individual can be involuntarily committed to a psychiatric facility for three days if the authorities involved believe his/her behavior is a credible threat to him/herself or others. And those three days, in reality, sometimes become three business days – that is, the period can stretch to five days if it starts near the weekend – simply because the bureaucratic machinery in a hospital doesn’t always turn quickly.

    (This once happened to a close friend of mine – he had a brief breakdown at work on a Thursday; by Friday noontime the consulting psychiatrist determined that he didn’t need to be hospitalized; it took until Tuesday afternoon for the discharge paperwork to get all the necessary signatures.)

    So if Oren Ungerleider had been held involuntarily in a psych ward for three days, it would be very unfortunate but believable. If he was really held for 30 days, then either (a) there’s much more to the story than we’re being told so far, or (b) some people are going to be coughing up a large sum of money to settle this case, probably before trial.

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