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We Support Milan Chatterjee


Emma Dillon, Brandeis Blog

June 7, 2016
 

You might remember reading about Milan Chatterjee, the President of the Graduate Student Association (GSA) at UCLA, who came under fire last November for his decision, and that of his GSA cabinet, to remain neutral on the Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Against Israel Movement. Following this decision, Mr. Chatterjee faced months of harassment (largely from pro-BDS groups), accusations of “viewpoint discrimination,” and even an impeachment campaign. It’s now June—over seven months later—and he’s still facing scrutiny; this time, by the UCLA administration.

The Dennis Prager Show featured Mr. Chatterjee last week. Mr. Chatterjee shared his side of the story, providing much more context to what can be found in articles published by the Daily Bruin and pro BDS-blogs. He explained how he and his GSA cabinet provided funding for a “Diversity Caucus,” with the stipulation that the event stay neutral on the BDS movement; i.e., that it not sponsor or support either side of the divestment debate on campus. The basis of this decision was that the GSA represents the graduate student body, and that it should remain sensitive to the BDS movement, which he described as being “rampant” at UCLA and having “created a great deal of division” on campus.

The student organizers accepted the funding and held the Diversity Caucus as planned, which Chatterjee described as a “huge success” with attendance from both pro-Palestine and pro-Israel students. Due to the success of the event, Chatterjee was shocked to receive a legal letter later in mid-November from Palestine Legal and the ACLU. According to Chatterjee, the letter personally attacked him for engaging in “viewpoint discrimination.” Within hours of receiving the letter, he found his name plastered on the ACLU website and various blogs supporting the BDS movement accusing him of participating in viewpoint discrimination. For months, he endured harassment on campus and received violent emails. At times during the interview, Prager interjected, stating his disbelief that a student leader could be accused of being biased and advancing a personal agenda despite taking a neutral position on the issue.

Chatterjee mentioned the Brandeis Center as one of the main organizations that came out in support of him throughout this turmoil, along with the American Center for Law and Justice and Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the UC Irvine School of Law. In April, the LDB chapter at UCLA wrote a letter in support of Chatterjee, emphasizing that his accusers failed to provide any evidence of their claims and urging the representatives of UCLA’s graduate student community to “stand against these baseless attacks against President Chatterjee.” The full statement can be found here. Following this letter and the efforts of other groups, Mr. Chatterjee was thankfully not impeached, but the counsel still voted to censure him for being neutral on Israel/Palestine politics.

Despite surviving the impeachment campaign and completing his term as GSA President, Chatterjee still faces an investigation by the UCLA administration, for which he has had to acquire legal counsel. Prager concluded the segment by announcing a petition released on Prager University entitled, “Tell UCLA: Stop Allying with Anti-Israel Groups.” The petition’s goal is for UCLA to drop its investigation of Chatterjee, and it has garnered more than 10,000 signatures in just a week. You can sign the petition in support of Milan here.

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Todd F. Braunstein, Esq.
Todd F. Braunstein is a counsel in the Investigations & Criminal Litigation practice group at the law firm WilmerHale, LLP. As a former federal prosecutor, he has years of experience in all phases of the investigative process, on both the government and the defense side.
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