A federal judge has ruled that it would be “fundamentally unfair” for a Princeton University student who attempted to commit suicide to remain anonymous while accusing school officials of wrongdoing by name in a lawsuit.
The student, identified as W.P., sued the university last year, claiming school officials barred him from his dorm room and prohibited him from setting foot on campus after he “impulsively ingested” 20 anti-depressants while he was a freshman in 2012.
He asked that he be able to proceed with the discrimination lawsuit under a pseudonym, citing the “social stigma and distress relating to his mental health.”
But in an order issued Friday, Magistrate Judge Tonianne Bongiovanni sided with lawyers for Princeton, who argued that W.P. should not be allowed to remain anonymous while attacking the character of school officials he’s already publicly named.
“While there is a public interest in ensuring that cases like Plaintiff’s are adjudicated and the rights of mental illness sufferers are represented fairly and without the risk of stigmatization, it must be balanced against the presumption of openness in judicial proceedings,” Bongiovanni writes. “The cloak of anonymity is not automatic.”
The judge noted that W.P. had chose to pursue action through the judicial system and therefore “must be willing to face the consequences of having a public proceeding.”
“Although Plaintiff is not a public figure, which would strengthen the public’s interest in knowing his identity, he is publicly accusing Princeton University and several named individual Defendants of serious wrongdoing impugning their character, integrity and reputation,” she added. “The Court agrees with Defendants that it would be fundamentally unfair to allow Plaintiff to accuse defendants of serious wrongdoing anonymously while forcing defendant to defend themselves publicly.”
W.P., whose contact information is listed in court papers as a Jon Doe email, could not immediately be reached for comment.
His lawsuit says that he was allowed to return to school one year after the suicide try.
He says that he will forever be forced to explain the one-year gap in his education and will be a year behind his friends in classes as a result of the school’s actions.
“He will always be afraid that seeking the help of mental health professionals in a time of distress may lead to disaster,” his lawsuit states.
A spokesman for Princeton could not immediately be reached for comment.