In response to allegations that student regent-designate nominee Avi Oved received a potentially problematic donation last year from Adam Milstein, who is involved in multiple pro-Israel organizations, Oved and Milstein both released statements Tuesday denying any wrongdoing and lambasting what they called bullying of pro-Israel students.
On the same day, the University of California Student Association Board of Directors held an emergency meeting about Oved, a UCLA junior involved with student government, which saw an outpouring of student voices but ended with more questions about possible UCSA action. The board is made up of representatives from each campus’ student government and recommends student regent candidates to the UC Board of Regents.
The meeting, a conference call consisting primarily of comments from students and UCSA board members, was held to discuss potential financial and political conflict-of-interest concerns about Oved that were brought up at the UCSA’s June board meeting Saturday.
According to a document presented by last year’s president of Students for Justice in Palestine at UC Riverside, Amal Ali, Oved allegedly sent an email to Milstein, founder of the Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation, to thank Milstein for his generous donation to Oved and UCLA political party Bruins United in the spring of last year.
Although Oved’s presence was initially expected at the conference call, he informed members of the board shortly before the meeting that he would not be attending and issued his statement that afternoon.
“Any suggestion that I violated the election code by failing to provide information not required is spurious and is nothing more than an attack against me as a pro-Israel student,” Oved wrote in the statement. “This recent attack is representative of a new breed of bullying on our campuses in which baseless attacks are leveled against the integrity of individuals.”
During public comment, opinions ranged from accusations of anti-Semitism to demands for a thorough investigation to anger about how the UCSA was handling the matter.
Board member and UCLA student Denea Joseph said during the meeting that it was “highly problematic” for Oved to let the board know he wouldn’t join in the conference call until little more than an hour before the meeting was set to start.
But UCLA student Tammy Rubin said that the attack was a “singling out of Jews” and that there was no point for Oved to be on the call “just to be bullied.”
Opinion fluctuated between concerns that Oved would not be able to fairly represent UC students and arguments that students, even if they hold office, are entitled to their own opinions.
For some UCSA board members, the heart of the issue is the transparency of donations to Oved and his party during UCLA’s student government elections last year. UCLA’s election code doesn’t require candidates to disclose the source of donations they receive, only how expenses are allocated.
The Milstein Foundation, which is classified as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is prohibited from participating in political campaigns. The foundation’s reports with the IRS indicate that the nonprofit only gave money to Hillel at UCLA, the UCLA Foundation and other similar organizations.
In his statement, Milstein said neither he nor the Milstein Foundation ever gave money to Bruins United or Oved, adding that the allegations are part of a “continuing effort to harass and intimidate students who are pro-Israel.”
Critics say no matter the legality of the alleged donation, it still reflects a possibility that Oved will not be able to represent UC students as a whole but will be beholden to outside organizations.
“The question is, is your primary focus students as a whole, or is your primary focus a certain constituency?” said UCSA board president Kareem Aref about the allegations before the meeting.
Because the student regent is the sole voting voice of the student body on the UC Board of Regents, participants in the meeting said Oved’s ability to represent his constituents was paramount.
UCSA’s systemwide affairs committee will hold a closed session Thursday to further consider whether they will continue to investigate the allegations against Oved. Aref said the UCSA would likely continue with an investigation.
Public comments, which will be reviewed by board members, will remain open until Wednesday at 11:59 p.m.
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the UCSA board of directors would hold a closed session on Thursday. In fact, it was UCSA’s systemwide affairs committee, a subset of the board of directors, that held the session.