A UCLA investigation found that a former graduate student government president violated university policy during the 2015-2016 school year.
The Discrimination Prevention Office, or DPO, completed an investigation June 29 that found former Graduate Students Association president Milan Chatterjee in violation of viewpoint neutrality in the GSA’s allocation of mandatory student fees. The DPO is a team within the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion that investigates claims of discrimination by faculty members and other campus entities.
The Diversity Caucus, which connects student groups to promote diversity, and Students for Justice in Palestine filed a complaint to the DPO against Chatterjee on Feb. 29 for placing a stipulation on a Diversity Caucus event’s funding.
UCLA spokesperson Ricardo Vazquez said in an email statement that Chatterjee violated policy by making funding dependent on whether groups supporting divestment from Israel were involved in the event. The investigation included interviews and reviews of meeting minutes, email correspondence and other documents.
University policy requires financial allocations to be made without regard to the viewpoint of any registered campus organizations. It also requires student governments to follow viewpoint-neutral criteria when reallocating mandatory campus-based student fees.
Chatterjee granted the Diversity Caucus $2,000 for their November town hall meeting on Oct. 16, but threatened to rescind the funding if organizations related to Divest from Israel were involved in the hosting of the event.
SJP contacted three legal groups that issued a letter in November stating Chatterjee violated students’ first amendment rights with the stipulation. Members of the GSA forum also created a subcommittee to investigate Chatterjee’s actions, but it dissolved when they were unable reach a consensus about how to evaluate the president’s actions.
The subcommittee accused Chatterjee of violating professional conduct by sending retaliatory emails, misusing GSA resources and acting outside the authority of the presidency and cabinet to create policy and make funding decisions.
In a special forum in April, GSA found Chatterjee guilty of violating the GSA code and constitution with a 12-3-5 vote and decided to draft a letter of censure. The letter stated the forum disapproved of Chatterjee’s actions, but did not find cause to remove him from office.
Chatterjee said he does not think the investigation conclusions are fair because the viewpoint neutrality policy is not widely available. He added GSA members, faculty advisors and administrators knew about the stipulation he placed on the Diversity Caucus’ event funding before it was approved and did not oppose it.
“When this whole thing happened … I wanted guidance about the policy, but administrators were not responsive,” he said. “I hope that in the future, administrators will be more responsive to the queries of student leaders and can make policies more available.”
Rahim Kurwa, a graduate student in sociology and SJP member, said he thinks the GSA did the right thing by undoing the restriction and apologizing to involved parties.
“The report issued by the DPO basically confirms all of the arguments made by the Diversity Caucus and SJP since we found out in October,” Kurwa said.
Kurwa added he hopes more students will become aware of the outcome of the investigation to prevent similar discriminatory actions in the future.
Peter Weil, Chatterjee’s attorney, said he has reviewed the DPO report and intends to contest it.
“We have carefully reviewed the report and found it to be deeply and fatally flawed,” Weil said. “Milan was denied due process and the DPO investigation lacked fundamental fairness.”
The investigation report did not recommend consequences and any further action is dependent on GSA and Student Affairs, Vazquez said.
Contributing reports by Alejandra Reyes-Velarde, News editor.