UCLA censures campus leader who tried to keep student group out of BDS fight


(JTA) — UCLA has reprimanded the former president of its Graduate Student Association for threatening to withhold funding for an event were it to promote divestment from Israel.

Jewish organizations this week criticized the investigation by the university’s Discrimination Prevention Office that concluded last month. The probe was spurred by complaints from Students for Justice in Palestine and the campus Diversity Caucus that law student Milan Chatterjee had violated students’ freedom of speech by putting stipulations on association funding.

Chatterjee, who is Hindu, threatened to rescind funding for a student town hall last November if pro-Palestinian groups used the occasion to promote divestment from Israel. He said his intention was to maintain the Graduate Student Association’s neutrality in political affairs.

The Discrimination Prevention Office found that Chatterjee acted “outside the authority of the presidency and cabinet to create policy and make funding decisions, among other findings,” the Daily Bruin reported.

UCLA policy requires that funding to student events be made without regard to the viewpoint of any registered organization.

Jewish groups accused the Discrimination Prevention Office of “targeting” Chatterjee.

The American Jewish Committee in Los Angeles said it was “deeply concerned” by the university’s ruling.

“The fact that a student official would be sanctioned for seeking to avoid embroiling the UCLA GSA in the fraught politics of the Middle East tells you all you need to know about the political agenda of his detractors and the cowardice of those that enable them,” the AJC wrote in a statement this week.

The Israeli-American Nexus, a Southern California organization affiliated with the the Israeli-American Council, said it was outraged by UCLA’s treatment of Chatterjee, charging that the university acted out of bias.

“It is very troubling when a public university sanctions a fair and balanced student leader for simply seeking to keep the UCLA GSA from being entangled in the complex issues of Middle East politics,” the IAX said in a news release. “When the policy was enacted by Milan in November 2015, the GSA Cabinet had voted unanimously in favor of it.”

Chatterjee is not expected to face any other consequences from the university.

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