On Nov. 19, 2015, Students for Justice in Palestine leaders sent me an email requesting documentation. Because they’ve retained attorneys and filed a legal letter with the chancellor, I followed protocol and referred them to UCLA’s legal department. After SJP followed up with administrators on this matter, they released a blog post, making a baseless accusation that I was not being transparent.
First off, I’m astonished that SJP did not find it necessary to engage in any conversation with the Graduate Student Association regarding their concerns and went straight to their lawyers. This “litigation first” strategy sets a dangerous precedent where if a student engages in an act that SJP doesn’t approve of, he or she will be subjected to legal intimidation.
Secondly, because SJP filed a legal complaint and invoked my name, I have the right to refer them to UCLA’s legal department. This, however, does not give them the right to defame my reputation. I believe they’ve done enough defamation by circulating an inaccurate legal complaint to the media. Furthermore, they continue to defame my reputation with nonsensical blog posts.
Under these circumstances, I’ve requested for UCLA to provide me with legal counsel. If UCLA is not able to provide this resource, I’ve requested for UCLA to reimburse me for hiring outside legal counsel.
Thirdly, I’m very disappointed by the harsh politics being played by arms of the administration.
The Diversity Caucus was created under the Graduate Student Resource Center. They approached me for GSA to financially sponsor a town hall with Vice Chancellor Jerry Kang. While GSA does not have a funding body for events, we found it to be a worthy cause and allocated $2,000 in ad-hoc funding for the event.
I explicitly told Manpreet Dhillon, one of the Diversity Caucus’s board members, that the neutrality stipulation applies not only to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, but any countermovement over the phone. She failed to disclose this fact to SJP or their attorneys, for whatever reasons. On the basis of our conversation, Dhillon accepted GSA’s funding. Obviously, her role in this complaint is central, because she back-channeled emails where nobody but herself was copied.
I find it very disappointing that when I’m working with organizations sponsored by the UCLA administration on a professional basis, they’re engaging in such politics and unprofessional tactics, leading to unnecessary defamation.
Fourthly, UCLA’s senior administration received a legal complaint invoking a student’s name. Because I’m a tuition-paying student, UCLA has the duty to provide me with the necessary support and help me protect my reputation from hostile tactics like this; especially because this inaccurate legal complaint is being circulated by the media.
I’m very disappointed that neither the legal department nor the UCLA administration has reached out to me. While I met with GSA advisors Mike Cohn and Roy Champawat, this meeting did not address the legal ramifications of SJP’s inaccurate and defamatory legal complaint.
Hence, I’ve respectfully requested for UCLA to provide me with the necessary legal support to stop this defamation and SJP’s mean-spirited tactics.
Chatterjee is a graduate student at the UCLA School of Law and president of the Graduate Student Association.