Monday, September 23

Student group alleges conflict of interest in two USAC councilmembers’ votes


Members of Students for Justice in Palestine at UCLA are officially challenging the legitimacy of two undergraduate student government councilmembers’ votes on a controversial divestment resolution brought to council last quarter.

Students for Justice in Palestine submitted a petition to the Undergraduate Students Association Council Judicial Board at the end of last week, claiming that USAC General Representative Sunny Singh and USAC Financial Supports Commissioner Lauren Rogers engaged in a conflict of interest by voting on a resolution that called for UCLA and the University of California to withdraw investments from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.

Students for Justice in Palestine brought the resolution to council along with numerous other student groups, but councilmembers voted it down 5-7-0 using a secret ballot. In the discussion at the council table, both Singh and Rogers appeared to be against the resolution.

The Judicial Board released a statement Monday night saying that it plans to review the case.

The petition asserts that Singh’s vote constituted a conflict of interest because during the summer he went on a free trip to Israel paid for by the Anti-Defamation League, a pro-Israel lobbying group that aims to stop anti-Semitism.

Students for Justice in Palestine also filed the complaint against Rogers because she went on a free trip to Israel over winter break with Project Interchange, which is part of the American Jewish Committee and aims to increase individuals’ understanding of Israel.

 

Both the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee have released statements showing support for anti-divestment campaigns.

“Whether their intention (for the trips) was for education or something else, the fact remains that the organizations themselves have anti-divestment agendas,” said Dana Saifan, the president of Students for Justice in Palestine and a fourth-year psychology student.

Rogers and Singh have said they did not receive any financial or monetary benefits for their votes and were not obligated to vote in any way because of the trips. They added that they viewed the trips as educational opportunities and did not use any of their office resources to go on the trip.

But members of Students for Justice in Palestine said they think Singh and Rogers were provided the trips and benefits as a result of their council positions because the organizations listed that students in leadership positions should apply to go on the trips.

At past meetings, the conflict-of-interest issue was brought up, but no formal actions were taken.

Students for Justice in Palestine didn’t think councilmembers were taking their concerns seriously, so they wanted the Judicial Board, an objective third party, to step in and evaluate the case, Saifan said.

The USAC bylaws state that a conflict of interest arises when councilmembers have any “unauthorized financial interest or obligation which might cause divided loyalty or even the appearance of divided loyalty.”

Councilmembers are supposed to refrain from voting and disclose all information if such a situation arises.

The Judicial Board intends to decide whether Singh and Rogers engaged in a conflict of interest, whether their trips affected their votes and whether their votes were legitimate.

The Judicial Board plans to hold a closed preliminary hearing for the case Thursday evening.

Compiled by Amanda Schallert, Bruin senior staff.

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  • Mr. Facts

    Students for Justice in Palestine is a bunch of crybabies mad that they can’t advance their anti-Israel agenda. Students for Justice in Palestine needs to condemn Hamas, a terrorist group instead of whining about Israel.

    A complaint should be filed against Lizzy Naameh, for failing to condemn the terrorist group Hamas.

  • Service aint your middle name

    I am confused. Should we file a J board complaint against students who take Religion m50 to learn about different cultures too? This is the biggest joke I have ever seen of a J Board complaint. Dana Saifan can accept that not everyone thinks the same as her, and that is a sad reality going forward in life. But whining and complaining does as little now as it did in pre-school. When council members use their positions or offices to gain a conflict of interest, we can talk. But taking a trip as an independent student who is entitled to do so is in our rights as students and individuals living in this country in general.

  • gallowaygrumblefield

    A trip to Israel doesn’t seem to meet the test of “unauthorized financial interest or obligation which might cause divided loyalty or even the appearance of divided loyalty.” What financial interest has been compromised? What loyalty has been divided? I also wonder if every council member’s Middle Eastern trips had been exposed, or only those that went to Israel?