Jewish Journal

UCLA student judicial board defeats SJP complaint, rules that sponsored Israel trips do not constitute conflict

Ruling upholds February's 7-5 defeat of a divestment resolution

by Jared Sichel

Posted on May. 21, 2014 at 6:18 pm

<em>Sunny Singh and his legal counsel listening to SJP's case that his 2013 trip to Israel should cast his recent anti-divestment vote into question. Austin Yu/Daily Bruin</em>

Sunny Singh and his legal counsel listening to SJP's case that his 2013 trip to Israel should cast his recent anti-divestment vote into question. Austin Yu/Daily Bruin

UCLA’s undergraduate judicial board — the student government’s equivalent of the Supreme Court — ruled Wednesday in a 4-0 vote that student government officers may take sponsored trips to Israel without it constituting a conflict of interest. Two of the judges abstained.

The ruling marks only the latest conflict between the UCLA chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and pro-Israel students on the campus. SJP filed a complaint in April against students Sunny Singh and Lauren Rogers, charging that they created a potential conflict of interest when they went on free trips to Israel, with the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, respectively.

[Past coverage: UCLA student court hears case on Israel trips]

The pro-Palestinian group asked the court to review the legitimacy of the votes cast by Singh and Rogers last February towards a SJP-sponsored resolution that called on UCLA’s administration to divest from companies that do business in the West Bank. That resolution failed 7-5. Although the ballot was secret, the going assumption is that both Singh and Rogers voted against the resolution.

On the evening of May 15, the Judicial Board heard about 4.5 hours of arguments, with both Singh and Rogers undergoing cross-examination by SJP’s student counsel, Dana Saifan, who questioned Singh about the contents of a liability clause ADL asked him to sign before his trip, asking why he didn’t submit into evidence his entire ADL trip application.

Singh said that his application was filled out on an old laptop that he no longer had in his possession.

Singh’s and Rogers’ counsel called as witnesses ADL regional director Amanda Susskind and Robert Peckar, immediate past national board chair of Project Interchange, the name of the AJC-sponsored Israel trip. They both argued that their motivation to bring Singh and Rogers to Israel was not a quid pro quo. They had no expectation and made no request for either to vote against anti-Israel resolutions in the student government.

Saifan cross-examined Susskind and Peckar, attempting to show that there was at least the appearance of a conflict of interest.

After both sides’ closing arguments, the judges questioning of the student attorneys indicated that they were skeptical about SJP’s claim that Singh and Rogers created a conflict of interest by accepting the free trips, with Chief Justice Matt Satyadi repeatedly challenging SJP.

The Judicial Board’s full opinion will be released by June 4.

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