The University of California’s Board of Regents announced on July 9 that it will move forward with its confirmation of Jewish pro-Israel student Avi Oved as student regent-designate, even as the student association that previously supported him recently voted 10-0 to delay Oved’s confirmation pending an investigation into allegations of conflict of interest.
In a letter addressed to Kareem Aref, the president of the University of California Student Association (UCSA), Board of Regents chairman Bruce Varner and regent George Kieffer wrote that Oved’s confirmation vote will “move forward at the July Regents meeting” July 16-17 in San Francisco, notwithstanding accusations of improper ties between the UCLA junior and local philanthropist Adam Milstein. (This article went to press prior to the meeting.)
Oved’s ties to Milstein were revealed when, at a June 28 UCSA meeting, Amal Ali — past president of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at UC Riverside — shared emails exchanged between Oved and Milstein that Oved says were hacked from his account.
The emails show that in April 2013, when Oved was running for UCLA’s student government, he sought Milstein’s support in light of the growing strength of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement at UCLA.
Milstein, a major supporter of numerous Jewish and pro-Israel groups, soon after wrote a $1,000 check to Hillel at UCLA earmarked for “UCLA student government leaders.”
That indirect contribution to Oved’s campaign is what UCSA wants to investigate, along with what it characterized in a July 3 statement as a “lack of transparency” on Oved’s part regarding his failure to disclose his relationship with Milstein. Asked on July 8 which bylaws the UCSA is referring to in its investigation, Aref told the Journal that UCSA could not single out any specific ones until any potential investigation would clarify exactly what happened.
Varner and Kieffer, though, wrote in their letter to UCSA: “Even if all the allegations raised against Mr. Oved are true, they clearly would not constitute a violation of the UCLA election code,” which places no restrictions or reporting requirements on student candidates’ campaign funding sources.
The board’s decision comes as a setback for SJP, the campus pro-Palestinian movement in this state, which, since January, has debated BDS resolutions on several campuses, including UCLA, where divestment was defeated by just two votes in February.
In May, SJP at UCLA charged Sunny Singh and Lauren Rogers, two then-outgoing student representatives, of improperly accepting sponsored educational trips to Israel by the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League, two pro-Israel organizations. The university’s student judicial board rejected the complaint 4-0.
If the Board of Regents ultimately confirms Oved at its July 16-17 meeting, he will sit as student regent-designate, a nonvoting member, alongside Sadia Saifuddin, a Muslim pro-BDS student from UC Berkeley and the board’s incoming student regent. She responded via text message that she will reserve comments until after the board’s confirmation vote. Student regent-designates serve one-year as nonvoting members before they are granted voting power on UC’s governing board.
Aref, who was reached by telephone on July 10, said that UCSA is still deciding how to move forward regarding its plans to investigate Oved.
Here is the board's full letter: