UCLA campus leader leaves over hostile and unsafe climate for pro-Israel students

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

The former president of the UCLA Graduate Students Association has left the university’s law school over what he calls a “hostile and unsafe campus climate.”

Milan Chatterjee will complete his third year of law school at New York University School of Law, the Los Angeles-based Jewish Journal reported.

Last November, Chatterjee, who is Hindu, threatened to rescind funding for a Diversity Caucus student town hall 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. Chatterjee was later reprimanded by the university, who said he acted outside of his authority.

On Aug. 24, Chatterjee sent a letter to UCLA Chancellor Gene Block informing the university that he was leaving in the wake of bullying and harassment by students and organizations promoting the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.

“I reached out to senior members of your administration many times – for guidance and support to diffuse this situation,” Chatterjee wrote in his letter. “Furthermore, I believed that these administrators would be especially sensitive given the public outcry caused by similar BDS-led efforts against UCLA students… .”

“I could not have been more mistaken. Your administrators were non-responsive and unhelpful,” he wrote.

He called the UCLA campus “a hostile and unsafe environment for students, Jewish and non-Jewish, who choose not to support the BDS movement, let alone support the state of Israel.”

Last year, the UCLA undergraduate student council came under fire after members grilled a Jewish student candidate for the judicial board for 40 minutes during a public meeting, implying that her Jewish background would make her bias. After receiving media scrutiny, the student council passed an anti-Semitism resolution.

In a statement sent to the Jewish Journal, UCLA defended its investigation of the Diversity Caucus incident, which found that Chatterjee violated the university’s “viewpoint neutrality” policy.

“Throughout the entire process, university officials took great care to respect Chatterjee’s rights, to get to the bottom of the issue fairly and to encourage all sides to de-escalate the heated rhetoric surrounding the dispute between Chatterjee and his fellow students,” the Aug. 31 statement said. – jta