University of California Los Angeles law student Milan Chatterjee, the former president of the school’s Graduate Student Association (GSA), revealed that he is leaving for New York University because of discrimination, bullying and harassment by anti-Israel students at the publicly-funded California school.
“Since November 2015, I have been relentlessly attacked, bullied and harassed by [boycott, divestment and sanctions] BDS-affiliated organizations and students,” Chatterjee wrote in part of a letter last week to University of California Chancellor Gene Block. He also cited UCLA’s decision to “engage in discriminatory practices of its own against” students who oppose the BDS movement.
The third-year law student explained that he had been targeted simply for attempting to be neutral as pro-BDS students conducted their anti-Israel campaign. He continued (via the Daily Bruin):
The smear and harassment campaign started with the false accusation that I (an Indian-American Hindu) was not “viewpoint neutral” when allocating funds, in my capacity as Graduate Student Body President, to a diversity event. 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. The event took place on November 5, 2015 and a variety of campus viewpoints were actively represented, including both sides of the issues raised by the BDS movement. Dean Erwin Chemerinsky-one of America’s leading constitutional law scholars-and four legal organizations concluded that my administration and I acted in a viewpoint neutral manner.
While he was the GSA’s president, Chatterjee wrote that he had reached out to senior members of the administration many times for their “guidance and support to diffuse this situation.” He said “I believed that these administrators would be especially sensitive given the public outcry caused by similar BDS-led efforts against UCLA students.” Instead, he noted “I could not have been more mistaken. Your administrators were non-responsive and unhelpful.”
In an interview with Algemeiner, Chatterjee said: “It is very scary how BDS activists will go to any measure to destroy people’s reputations and careers. UCLA should be ashamed of themselves for refusing to take action, and rather joining in the harassment I endured by BDS groups. I am not the first student nor will I be the last.”
In a statement acquired by the Bruin, UCLA spokesperson Ricardo Vazquez said UCLA stands by the Discrimination Prevention Office’s (DPO) three-month investigation of Chatterjee, which found he had not been neutral in handling the issue.
The Bruin notes: “Vazquez added while UCLA does not support divestment from Israel, it recognizes the right of students to hold such opinions.” He reportedly said that UCLA “remains proud of its numerous academic and cultural relationships with Israeli institutions. Supporters and opponents of divestment remain free to advocate for their position as long as their conduct does not violate university policies.”
Last February, anti-Israel students helped reject UCLA student Rachel Beyda from her candidacy for a student office, based solely on her Jewish religious affiliation. After a faculty intervention, Beyda was eventually elected to join the board by a unanimous vote.
That same month, the UC Students Association voted to divest from Israel and America. Similar attempts have been made at other schools throughout the publicly-funded University of California school system. Last January, students at UC Davis passed a resolution urging the school to divest from companies doing business in Israel. However, the school’s student court declared the resolution to be unconstitutional (i.e. not in accordance with standards outlined in the student court), and ruled against it, following an appeal from the university’s students.
On Tuesday, California’s state legislature almost unanimously passed the Golden State’s first-ever anti-“boycott, divestment and sanctions” (BDS) bill, which will now need to garner Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature in order to become state law by September’s end.
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