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August 17, 2016 1:57 pm

Campus, Legal Groups Slam UCLA for Indulging ‘Vicious’ Campaign Against Student Leader for Neutrality on Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

avatar by Lea Speyer

Milan Chatterjee was condemned by UCLA administration for  his attempt to remain neutral on matters concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Photo: UCLA GSA.

Milan Chatterjee. Photo: UCLA GSA.

The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) is under fire from major campus watchdog and legal groups for its “indulgence” of bullying tactics against a student leader for his attempt to remain neutral on Israeli-Palestinian issues.

In a letter sent to UCLA Chancellor Gene Block this week and obtained by The Algemeiner, the groups expressed their “deep concern” over the university’s failure to stand up for law student and former president of the Graduate Student Association (GSA) Milan Chatterjee, who they say is the subject of a “vicious” public smear campaign by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and its allies, Palestine Legal and the ACLU of Southern California.

The letter — which was co-signed by the AMCHA Initiative, the Israeli-American Coalition for Action, the Israeli-American Council, the Lawfare Project, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, StandWithUs and the Zionist Organization of America — reads in part:

We are very troubled not only by these bullying and harassing tactics, but also by UCLA’s seeming indulgence of them. Rather than supporting and protecting Mr. Chatterjee and conceding that the administration played a significant role in allowing the stipulation to become an issue, UCLA instead actually appears to be scapegoating Mr. Chatterjee, too. We urge you to intervene immediately and put a stop to these activities. Mr. Chatterjee should be exonerated, apologized to, and permitted to finish law school in peace and to pursue his personal and professional goals without any unjust and undeserved blemishes on his academic record.

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The groups also took issue with the leak of a confidential UCLA Discrimination Prevention Office (DPO) report condemning Chatterjee for what it says is his violation of university policy on “viewpoint-neutral funding.” This was after her initially refused to fund any program organized by or featuring the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

According to the campus watchdog and legal groups:

At least two UCLA representatives reportedly played a role in publicly commenting on the Investigative Report censuring Mr. Chatterjee. One of them, Vice Chancellor Kang, actually blogged about the confidential Investigative Report, noting — without any hint of rebuke — that the confidential Report had already been leaked so that ‘[t]his means that right now, you can read every word of the report.’

It is outrageous that UCLA officials…would have such callous disregard for how such comments would impact Milan Chatterjee. And it is deeply troubling that to our knowledge, the UCLA administration has not taken any steps to investigate who has violated confidentiality, in both letter and spirit, and to hold all wrongdoers accountable.

As reported by The Algemeiner, two student groups, the Diversity Caucus and SJP — which the organizations said “routinely harasses, intimidates, threatens and seeks to silence Jewish and pro-Israel students on campus” — brought a complaint against Chatterjee, claiming he had discriminated against them for their beliefs. The Diversity Caucus requested funding from the GSA for a November 2015 town hall networking event, which featured 28 student organizations, one of them SJP.

In correspondence with the Diversity Caucus, Chatterjee reiterated the GSA’s unanimous “zero engagement/endorsement policy” towards supporting any BDS-related organizations — a policy which the student group accepted. The Diversity Caucus was subsequently granted funding by the GSA and held the town hall event without the direct involvement of SJP.

In mid-November, law groups ACLU and Palestine Legal wrote a letter on behalf of SJP, demanding a response from the school administration and the removal of Chatterjee from his position as GSA president, arguing that SJP was singled out for its pro-Palestinian beliefs. This has resulted in a months-long battle between Chatterjee, represented by his legal team, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), and UCLA officials and anti-Israel advocates.

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