The University of California Student Association Board of Directors passed a motion to conduct an emergency meeting this week after financial and political conflict of interest concerns surrounding student regent-designate nominee Avi Oved were raised at its meeting Saturday.
According to a document presented by a student from UC Riverside during public comments, Oved allegedly sent an email a few weeks before the 2013 Undergraduate Student Association elections at UCLA thanking Adam Milstein, a heavy supporter of pro-Israel organizations who also runs the Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation, for a generous donation to him and a campus political party.
In return, Oved — who was running for internal vice president with Bruins United at the time — promised to make sure that “UCLA would maintain its allegiance to Israel and the Jewish community” and fight against the “oppression” felt under the leadership of pro-Palestine members of the student government. In the email, Oved said Bruins United was excited to further strengthen its unwavering support for Israel and fight against those who were anti-Israel and against those supporting the active boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.
The goal of the emergency meeting is to discuss Oved’s relationship with the Milstein Foundation and review potential conflicts of interest and concerns over funding transparency, according to UCSA board member Kevin Sabo. If the UCSA Board of Directors — which is composed of members of each campus’ student government — finds there are substantial concerns, the board may recommend that the UC Board of Regents delay the nomination until a full investigation can be conducted, according to Sabo.
Each year, the UCSA Board of Directors, along with two other committees, selects a student to serve as the student regent. In May, the board met potential candidates and sent forward three recommendations to the regents, who ultimately chose Oved, according to Sabo. The regents are expected to confirm Oved at their July meeting.
UCSA board member Abraham Galvan-Sanchez said he wants Oved to prove that the donations were not made by the foundation, that he did report the donation as mandated by the USAC elections code and that there is no reason for the board to be worried about the influence that this and other outside organizations may have on him during his terms as student regent-designate and student regent.
“I just hope he can clarify and hope that he speaks honestly about where our concern is coming from,” said Caitlin Quinn, external affairs vice president at UC Berkeley’s student government and a UCSA board member. “It reflects badly on UCSA, on the whole UC system and the regents if we don’t investigate.”
Oved, who has been active in Jewish organizations on the UCLA campus, said he would not be able to comment until Monday.
The Milstein Foundation — founded by Adam Milstein and members of his family — is against the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and funds programs such as UCLA Hillel, according to Melissa Stein, executive director of the Milstein Foundation in an interview with The Daily Californian prior to Saturday’s meeting. According to the Milstein Foundation’s annual reporting with the IRS, no money was allocated to Bruins United in 2011, 2012 or 2013.
Current student regent-designate Sadia Saifuddin — who will serve as the student regent in 2014-15 — was initially met with criticism at the July 2013 UC Board of Regents meeting when concerns were raised about her support to divest UC funds from companies affiliated with the Israeli military. Saifuddin co-sponsored a UC Berkeley student-government bill in the spring of 2013 aiming to divest student-government funds from companies that provide equipment, materials and technology to the Israeli military.
In past years, relationships between pro-Israel groups and student-government officials raised conflict of interest concerns.
At UCLA, divestment dominated many discussions in the 2013-2014 academic year. Concerns reached a peak when students involved in the Students for Justice in Palestine filed a complaint in April against two Bruins United senators, Sunny Singh and Lauren Rogers, citing a conflict of interest by participating in a sponsored trip to Israel, according to a 2014 Daily Bruin article. In response, candidates running with other political parties signed a statement stating they would not take sponsored trips with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee — or AIPAC — and the Anti-Defamation League or Hasbara Fellowships, the Daily Bruin reported.
Many board members said this infraction from Oved was more serious than these previous examples.
A previous headline for this article failed to specify Avi Oved as the student regent-designate nominee, instead only referring to Oved as the student regent-designate.