Monday, May 20

Submission: Bruin columnist, SJP used selectively leaked information to accuse GSA


Aram Ghoogasian’s unfair and inaccurate portrayal of the Graduate Students Association, along with Students for Justice in Palestine’s usage of uncharitable tactics to express concerns with our funding of a Diversity Caucus Town Hall, leave us very worried about the level and style of political discourse at UCLA.

It is important to clarify what actually occurred when I tried to help the Diversity Caucus’ event. When the Diversity Caucus approached me for funding, it had already overcommitted to an almost $7,500 catering bill. At first, other organizations were hesitant to contribute money to this event on the grounds that they felt it lacked credibility, but I truly felt dedicated to promoting diversity and wanted to help assure the event would go smoothly. I persuaded my cabinet to contribute $2,000 in ad hoc funding and then convinced the Undergraduate Students Association Council to co-sponsor the event as well. Because of this GSA-USAC alliance, other organizations joined to sponsor, and the event was a great success.

Unfortunately, the Diversity Caucus has chosen to respond to our support by selectively leaking and misrepresenting information to SJP that has been completely taken out of context.

Ghoogasian and SJP might not know this, but Associated Students UCLA’s Student Interaction Fund prohibits organizations from using funds to support “religious or partisan programming.” With Ghoogasian’s logic, the entire ASUCLA organization – and not the GSA in particular – violates First Amendment rights and should be subject to mass resignation. Since the GSA cabinet was providing ad hoc funding, our stipulation adhered to ASUCLA’s policy by ensuring that we did not use student funds to support a partisan event. So we informed the Diversity Caucus that we cannot financially support a one-sided viewpoint, whether it be Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions or any countermovement to BDS. It’s unfortunate that the Diversity Caucus chose to misrepresent this fact to SJP and the greater UCLA community, making it appear as though we were arbitrarily choosing to silence one viewpoint on the issue rather than adhering to ASUCLA’s Student Interaction Fund policy.

What’s even more disappointing is that, instead of engaging in a respectful conversation about its concerns with GSA, or even alerting us of its concerns at all so that we might respond, SJP chose to immediately retain attorneys and have them send us a letter mischaracterizing events. In his opinion piece, Ghoogasian misleadingly claims that I told SJP to reach out to UCLA’s legal team with its concerns so I wouldn’t have to deal with them myself – but he fails to mention that I only did this because SJP had lawyers contact us first, rather than speaking to us directly, thereby bringing matters to the “litigation” level. This bad faith omission of fact confirms that Ghoogasian and SJP’s aim wasn’t to resolve their genuine concerns but to publicly and misleadingly cast the GSA in a poor light.

Ghoogasian, SJP and SJP’s lawyers should not bully student leaders but should instead take their issues to the UCLA administration. Our position is not and has never been that students should not freely voice their beliefs and engage in dialogue. Any legitimate worries about the policies should be voiced and heard, but our efforts and decisions should not be misrepresented in the process.

In this case, the three firms that SJP retained have used their letter – which criticizes us based on an inaccurate picture of events and our positions – in an attempt to gain publicity and unfairly criticize us.

This intention has been highlighted by the fact that, instead of addressing its concerns with GSA or engaging in a dialogue with us directly so that we have the opportunity to clarify our stance and appropriately solve any problems students might have, SJP is focused on circulating this letter to the media.

The GSA works hard to serve the UCLA community and would hope for a good-faith chance to discuss and resolve complaints. It is unfortunate that the Diversity Caucus chose to selectively leak and misrepresent information and that Ghoogasian and SJP have misdirected their disapproval of ASUCLA’s funding policy toward us for our attempts to accord with it.

I’d be happy to resolve any concerns with SJP leaders over a respectful and direct conversation. The GSA knows that not all of our decisions will please everyone at UCLA, but we would have hoped that any concerns be raised directly with us so we would have the opportunity to address them prior to bringing lawyers and publicly circulated misrepresentation of events into the picture. I hope we can all hold ourselves to a dignified level of political discourse. And no, I won’t be resigning as GSA president.

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  • Nazik

    Selectively leaked, huh? It’s pretty clear from your original emails, Mr. GSA President, that you were restricting ONLY ONE viewpoint. A viewpoint supported by several student organizations and endorsed by the majority of graduate students. You clearly misused your position of power over funds to stop a viewpoint you personally disagree with. SHAME ON YOU!!

    http://imgur.com/gallery/BPQfc

  • Milan Chatterjee

    Nazik, it was explicitly made clear to Diversity Caucus’s organizer Manpreet Dhillon that neutrality applies to both BDS and any countermovement. That served as the key reason why she accepted the funds. There are a lot of funding sources on campus. If the Diversity Caucus had concerns regarding this situation, they could’ve obtained funding from a different source, or choose to file a complaint with GSA/UCLA. Obviously, they didn’t do either. So, either the Diversity Caucus did not have issues with GSA’s neutrality policy. Or, if by your mischaracterization GSA has a one-sided policy (which they don’t), the Diversity Caucus supports it. And, I don’t have a particular position on this issue that I adhere to.

    • Nazik

      Where in either of these emails did you make neutrality clear @milanchatterjee:disqus ? Please point it out! The emails are right here for everyone to see: http://imgur.com/gallery/BPQfc

      You know deep down in your heart you’re lying. All the frantic late-night scribd updates in the world can’t make the guilt go away.

    • hypocrisy

      Milan, its not your role to demand nuetrality. i.e deny funds to one side. Your role is to ensure the First Amendment is upheld. You are a law student and you aren’t aware of the basic tenets of this country?

      Resign.

  • Milan Chatterjee

    Nazik, please see the following email. Feel free to contact the organizer if you have any questions: https://www.scribd.com/doc/291082147/Email-to-Diversity-Caucus

    • Nazik

      Leaked emails? Please spare me the lies, the email clearly has heaps of people CC’d on it. You do know that everyone you cc gets the email too, right? I hope I’m not rocking your world here, Mr. President. Let me link to the original emails again so everyone can visually inspect with their visual cortex how there are people cc’d. http://imgur.com/gallery/BPQfc

      • Milan Chatterjee

        Nice try, Nazik. It’s shameful that you’re trying to blame innocent people. These emails were only sent to Ms. Dhillon, yet they were magically referenced in SJP’s legal letter. You cannot now dispute the fact that these emails were leaked.

        As you can tell, on November 5th, the emails reference a conversation with Ms. Dhillon about a neutral stipulation. Throughout this correspondence, the only thing I discuss is not favoriting either the Israel or Palestine side.

        After this set of emails, I have nothing else to disclose, as there are no other emails: https://www.scribd.com/doc/291084035/Emails-with-Diversity-Caucus

        • Nazik

          EVERYONE look at the emails: http://imgur.com/gallery/BPQfc
          It was sent on October 18th (didn’t @milanchatterjee:disqus say the “conceptual” resolution passed on October 26…hmmm?) and it SO CLEARLY has people on it who were CC’d.

          Also, why are you so adamant about these emails being labeled “leaked”? You’re a public officer giving out funds that come from student fees…it shouldn’t take an Edward Snowden to discover your corrupt one-sided policies, you should really be more transparent.

          May I suggest you get a twitter and constantly tell us what you’re thinking–we don’t want to miss out on another “conceptual” resolution! Who knows what you’ll ban next?!

  • Milan Chatterjee

    Nice try, Nazik. It’s shameful that you’re trying to blame innocent people. These emails were only sent to Ms. Dhillon, yet they were magically referenced in SJP’s legal letter. You cannot now dispute the fact that these emails were leaked.

    As you can tell, on November 5th, the emails reference a conversation with Ms. Dhillon about a neutral stipulation. Throughout this correspondence, the only thing I discuss is not favoriting either the Israel or Palestine side.

    After this set of emails, I have nothing else to disclose, as there are no other emails: https://www.scribd.com/doc/291084035/Emails-with-Diversity-Caucus

    • Nazik

      EVERYONE look at the emails: http://imgur.com/gallery/BPQfc
      It was sent on October 18th (didn’t Milan Chatterjee say the “conceptual” resolution passed on October 26…hmmm?) and it SO CLEARLY has people on it who were CC’d.

      Also, why are you so adamant about these emails being labeled “leaked”? You’re a public officer giving out funds that come from student fees…it shouldn’t take an Edward Snowden to discover your corrupt one-sided policies, you should really be more transparent.

      May I suggest you get a twitter and constantly tell us what you’re thinking–we don’t want to miss out on another “conceptual” resolution! Who knows what you’ll ban next?!

    • hypocrisy

      Milan, you’re not the innocent angle you’re portending to be by any stretch. Resign.

  • hypocrisy

    Someone’s gone over the deep end. Even if the supposed information was selectively leaked, does that take away from the fact the Milan tried to impose illegal restrictions on a campus group.

    The information may have been leaked, but it still doesn’t negate the fact that you broke the law. Resign for the sake of the institution.

    • Voice of Reason

      But the entire point of this article is that he was not imposing restrictions, he was simply stating the bylaws? I feel like SJP is just making this a big deal…it seems like Milan would have rejected funding for any pro-Israeli event also so there is no discrimination or targeting of any one group.

      • hypocrisy

        Sorry, but Milan doesn’t get to choose what is speech on campus. There is more to this than is being let on.

        • Joe Bruin2

          The point is Milan can’t fund certain speech. It is welcome to occur, just not at a GSA funded event.

      • Nazik

        The entire point of this was Milan is trying very hard to use his power to stifle a specific political position! And no, he was not quoting bylaws. He said in the original article that a resolution passed on Oct 26, then he admitted that this was a lie. How is this guy still in office?

        Everyone should make a big deal out of this. If it was some other movement that Milan said couldn’t be involved at the Diversity Caucus, you probably wouldn’t be making this argument. Everything will be clearer when you take the minute to read the GSA’s original emails: http://imgur.com/gallery/BPQfc

  • Jonas

    Don’t worry about all this, Milan. The only people that are outraged are SJP and its supporters. Everyone else thinks what you did is fine or, at worst, doesn’t care.

    • Nazik

      Yea Milan, don’t worry about breaking the law. It’s all good, no one really ever cared about the first amendment anyways…

      Just imagine it was your group or a movement you cared about being unlawfully singled out and barred from participating in the diversity caucus. Just look at this http://imgur.com/gallery/BPQfc and see if you’re comfortable with the GSA president banning you.

  • Publius

    This is the dumbest controversy ever.

    I think Milan’s angle here is all wrong. What he should be emphasizing is the fact that he wanted to ensure his administration’s allocation of funding mirrored the standard in state law, which provides that state agencies should not engage in partisan political activity. And the fact that this has ruffled so many feathers — with some suggesting that the death of free speech is upon us — illustrates the actual intentions of SJP in using the event which was to legitimize their cause.

    As always, SJP is the victim. That is their MO.

    • Nazik

      You’re right, it’s so dumb when the first amendment gets violated, especially when it’s SJP’s. Like who cares about them anyways? Rights should only matter for people you like.

      SJP is just so good at playing the victim, like did you say how they just made themselves the topic of Milan’s second stipulation, like that was their MO from the beginning. Totally makes sense. http://imgur.com/gallery/BPQfc

    • hypocrisy

      Earth to Publius; political activity is when an event is restricted to a certain party. Would be good for you to know the difference.

      • Nazik

        Also, political student organizations still get funding from the university. It seems like these people really have no clue what the facts on the ground are.

      • Publius

        Is this sarcasm?

        Where does the law say that? Political activities are now considered to be limited to campaigning for or against a certain party? SJP members understand they are engaging in political activity.

        SJP’s raison d’être is speaking out against the State of Israel. The president was right to ensure that his administration was not going to provide funding if SJP could not acknowledge the GSA would remain neutral.

  • Jaimini P

    Mr. Chatterjee on behalf of the GSA blatantly violated the first amendment rights of Students for Justice in Palestine. Mr. Chatterjee told these students that they could not use funds from the GSA, that are made available to all student groups to stimulate debate and enrich campus life, based on their viewpoints. He told these students on behalf of the GSA that their funded event must have “zero connection with ‘Divest from Israel’ or any equivalent movement/organization.” The US Supreme Court has held that a university taking action to denying expression based on a student group’s viewpoint is a violation of the first amendment when the university has made those funds available to all student groups. Mr. Chatterjee has abused his power as President of the GSA by dictating what students should or should not be saying using the club of university funding. He makes a mockery of our constitution. Mr. Chatterjee should resign. I didn’t vote for him, and he does not have my vote of confidence.

    Furthermore, as a law student, Mr. Chatterjee should not be chastising students for retaining counsel to vindicate the infringement of their civil rights. Rather he, as our GSA President, should not be violating the rights of students.

    For those interested in the first amendment issues, see the letter from the ACLU to the Vice Chancellor of UCLA: http://ccrjustice.org/home/blog/2015/11/18/ucla-must-cease-discrimination-against-advocates-palestinian-human-rights

  • Malcom

    Milan, the space reserved for internet comments is similar to the space under a bridge in that trolls tend to be drawn to both. Make no mistake, you are in the right. Don’t let the loud voices of the angry and uninformed annoy you. You’re amazing, I hope this goes away soon and I hope you have a wonderful weekend.