ZOA and 7 Other Groups Urge UCLA Chancellor to Stop Bullying of Student Leader for His Efforts to Stay Neutral on BDS
ZOA in the news
August 23, 2016

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) and a coalition of seven other national organizations sent a ZOA-authored letter last Monday to UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, urging him to finally put a stop to the months-long bullying campaign that has been waged against Milan Chatterjee, a UCLA law student and the former president of the Graduate Student Association (GSA).  The harassment campaign was launched by the “Students for Justice in Palestine” (SJP) campus group and its allies, and is being tolerated and indulged by UCLA officials, simply because Mr. Chatterjee made good faith efforts to prevent the GSA from taking a position on the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which has created a hostile campus environment for many students.  The ZOA letter – signed by 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, and StandWithUs – was copied to numerous officials, including California Governor Jerry Brown, U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, and U.S. Representatives Ted Lieu and Brad Sherman, among others.

“It is ludicrous for UCLA to have made a finding that Mr. Chatterjee created a hostile environment for other students when he was plainly trying to do exactly the opposite.”

When a campus group called the Diversity Caucus asked the GSA last September to fund an upcoming diversity event, the GSA granted the request, provided that the event would not take any position on BDS.  The Diversity Caucus accepted the stipulation without objection – as well as the funding – and the diversity event took place with the GSA’s sponsorship and financial support.  Many campus groups participated without restriction in the event, including groups that support and oppose BDS. 

Weeks after the diversity event, the SJP criticized the stipulation as violating the First Amendment, and then began a campaign of harassment against Milan Chatterjee, including smearing him publicly, making numerous efforts to remove him from his GSA position, and, together with the Diversity Caucus, filing a complaint against him with UCLA’s Discrimination Prevention Office (DPO), alleging that he violated University of California (UC) policy requiring viewpoint neutrality in the allocation of student fees.

Rather than protect Mr. Chatterjee from this vendetta, and acknowledge that UC policy put the onus on UCLA – not Mr. Chatterjee – to fulfill the viewpoint neutrality requirement, UCLA allowed the stipulation, which had not been problematic to anyone before, to suddenly become an issue.  The DPO investigated the complaint and concluded that Mr. Chatterjee violated UC policy, and that the violation had a negative impact on campus climate – even though Mr. Chatterjee had in fact acted to safeguard the campus climate, without restricting any group, including those that support BDS, from participating fully in the diversity event. 

Making matters worse, after the DPO issued its decision in an Investigative Report marked confidential, the SJP and at least two UCLA representatives violated the confidentiality requirement, causing Mr. Chatterjee additional unwarranted suffering. 

In their letter to Chancellor Block, the ZOA and its partner groups called on the Chancellor to investigate the breach of confidentiality and punish the wrongdoers; rescind the Investigative Report; and publicly exonerate and apologize to Mr. Chatterjee, writing, “Taking these steps will send the message to the UCLA community that student leaders cannot be targeted or censured for their good faith efforts to encourage a non-hostile campus environment. In addition, perhaps the SJP will start getting the message that its bullying tactics, directed against students who do not support the group’s hateful and divisive agenda, will no longer be indulged by UCLA.”

Reiterating the call to UCLA Chancellor Gene Block to finally protect Milan Chatterjee, Morton A. Klein, ZOA National President, and Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., Director of the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice, stated:  “It is ludicrous for UCLA to have made a finding that Mr. Chatterjee created a hostile environment for other students when he was plainly trying to do exactly the opposite – to keep the Graduate Student Association out of the highly contentious and polarizing BDS issue, without hindering the full range of views from being expressed at an event sponsored and supported by the GSA.  If anything, UCLA should be standing behind this principled student leader who was simply trying to do what he could to promote a campus environment that feels safe and welcoming for everyone.  We urge Chancellor Block to exercise leadership and not only put a stop to this young man’s painful ordeal but also send the message that bullying tactics against students who do not support the SJP’s vicious hatred toward Israel will not be tolerated at UCLA.”

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