UCLA campus
UCLA campus Courtesy of Nikhil Kulkarni

Despite a formal rejection of the Boycott, Divest, Sanction (BDS) movement in March by the University of California system, the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), one of most prestigious public colleges in the state, has empowered and enabled the anti-Israel movement, targeting those who challenge BDS and allied organizations.

Efforts by campus BDS groups, bolstered by the University itself, have in the words of a former UCLA Graduate Student Association (GSA) president, made the school’s campus a “hostile and unsafe environment for students, Jewish students and non-Jewish, who choose not to support the BDS movement, let alone support the state of Israel.”

As reported by The Algemeiner, ex-GSA president Milan Chatterjee slammed school administrators for giving BDS activists a free hand on campus – and even actively assisting them in their harassment of those challenging the BDS agenda.

The school administration, Chatterjee wrote, “not only allowed BDS organizations and student activists to freely engage in intimidation of students who do not support the BDS agenda, but has decided to affirmatively engage in discriminatory practices of its own against those same students.”

Chatterjee himself, in his capacity as GSA president, became the target of the BDS movement when he limited the distribution of GSA funds for a campus event last November to non-BDS organizations.

Chatterjee pointed out that the arrangement was accepted by school officials beforehand.

“Everyone knew about the stipulation from the very beginning. I even received explicit approval.”

Nevertheless, Chatterjee told The Algemeiner, the local branch of the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) organization launched a “deadly, malicious campaign against me,” including a virulent smear campaign on campus.

“They wrote defamatory articles in the media, circulated petitions and tried to remove me as GSA president three times. A lot of venom was spread around campus against me.”

To make matters worse, despite having received approval for the move, Chatterjee soon found himself under investigation by the UCLA Discrimination Prevention Office over his limiting of GSA funds to non-BDS groups.

After a four-month investigation, the DPO found Chatterjee had “violated University policy requiring viewpoint neutrality”. Despite the report's confidentiality clause, it was quickly leaked to the Students for Justice in Palestine organization.

When Chatterjee approached the UCLA administration, they refused to even examine his claims.

“I filed a complaint with the office of Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Jerry Kang, who took zero action and refused to investigate. Then, astonishingly, Kang went and wrote on his blog about the report and gave people access to it by redirecting readers. This is very disturbing behavior and shows a double standard at play at UCLA. If SJP files a complaint, they will bend over backwards. If it’s anyone else, they don’t care.”

Chatterjee has since left UCLA, transferring to NYU for his last year of law school.

“I am leaving many close friends behind at UCLA and the LA community, which I formed a very strong connection with, particularly the Jewish community, which has been very supportive,” he said. “I am having to pay a lot of more money to go to NYU Law School and am essentially being forced to pay a financial premium for my education. My parents have been very supportive because they’ve come to realize that UCLA has become an unsafe place. Thankfully, they are willing to help me in taking on a huge financial expense.”

“The Jewish students I know are some of the nicest, hardworking, most cultured people I’ve ever met. They come to college to celebrate their heritage and are instead targeted because of their faith and culture, which is ridiculous. The fact that the UCLA administration joins them [the instigators] is even more shameful.”