UCLA grad student prez hounded into resignation by SJP
The president of UCLA’s Graduate Student Association has stepped down and left the school after months of harassment by the school’s Students for Justice in Palestine chapter went unanswered by university administrators.
Milan Chatterjee, who until recently was a law student at the school, has been subjected to months of public attacks after he refused to endorse a side of the Israeli-Palestine conflict in an effort to keep his government politically neutral.
In fact, Chatterjee threatened to rescind funds from a “Diversity Caucus” event when it hinted at advocating for boycott and divestment from Israel, which would have effectively meant taking a public stance in favor of the “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” (BDS) movement.
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Accordingly, the school’s SJP chapter demanded a university-conducted investigation into the incident, alleging that Chatterjee violated university policy—a claim the school eventually affirmed, saying he had disregarded the school’s “policy requiring viewpoint neutrality in the allocation of mandatory student fees.”
Chatterjee’s intention all along, however, was to prevent the event from having a clear political slant, which is why he even had hesitations in the first place.
“UCLA administrators knew about my neutrality stance from the very beginning, and expressed no concerns or issues about it,” he told Campus Reform. “Even the vice chancellor who investigated me knew about the neutrality stance on October 23—almost two weeks before the November 5 event—and expressed no concerns or need to take any pre-emptive action.”
Chatterjee noted that it wasn’t until “SJP and their lawyers made a political stink about it” that the “administration chose to scapegoat me.”
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Last week, just days before the start of the new school year, Chatterjee wrote UCLA’s chancellor, Gene Block, informing him that he would be resigning from his post in the GSA and leaving the school entirely.
“Since November 2015, I have been relentlessly attacked, bullied, and harassed by BDS-affiliated organizations and students,” he writes in his resignation letter. “What really occurred is that my administration and I abstained from supporting either a pro-or anti-BDS agenda. This condition was explicitly approved by a UCLA administrator.”
Chatterjee’s own student government had previously called for a no-confidence vote in an effort to remove him from office, and passed a resolution condemning anyone who disagreed with the BDS movement as an “Islamaphobe.”
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While the motion ultimately failed, Chatterjee says he was eventually pushed into resigning because of the way he was being treated on campus, where students utilized their school newspaper to publish what some lawmakers have called “defaming articles” against him.
“For years to come, Mr. Chatterjee will have a tarnished reputation, simply because he chose to remain neutral towards a highly divisive issue on the UCLA campus,” Congressman Brad Sherman wrote in a June press release. “This is not the first time students in the UC system have been vilified by the pro-BDS community.”
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Some local Jewish advocacy groups have also condemned Chatterjee’s treatment, including “StandWithUs,” which railed against the administration for its negligence in allowing a summary of the investigation into Chatterjee to be leaked.
“We are shocked and outraged that the UCLA administration has allowed a confidential document about Mr. Chatterjee to be leaked by UCLA Students for Justice in Palestine and refused to address the issue after the fact,” it wrote in a press release, calling on the U.S. Department of Education to conduct an investigation into the matter.
Chatterjee told Campus Reform that after this experience, he has concluded that SJP is “a dangerous force for our society,” noting that he will now complete his final year of law school elsewhere in order to escape the hostile climate at UCLA.
“They advocate for the economic destruction of Israel—America's top ally. Moreover, they relentlessly harass and bully students who don't adhere to their destructive beliefs,” he pointed out. “SJP will go out of their way to destroy people's reputations and careers, solely because they are not anti-Israel. Our society needs to neutralize this hateful organization.”
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AGockowski