Thursday, November 23

Judicial Board finds USAC members did not engage in conflicts of interest


This post was updated at 8:32 p.m.

The undergraduate student government Judicial Board ruled Wednesday that two councilmembers who went on free trips to Israel while in office did not engage in conflicts of interest.

Students for Justice in Palestine filed a petition with the Undergraduate Students Association Council Judicial Board last month, claiming that outgoing General Representative Sunny Singh and outgoing Financial Supports Commissioner Lauren Rogers violated the USAC bylaws by voting on a controversial divestment resolution after going on trips with the Anti-Defamation League and Project Interchange, respectively, while in office, respectively.

In February, USAC councilmembers voted down a divestment resolution calling for the University of California and UCLA to divest from five companies with ties to the Israeli military, along with any other companies that it claims are involved in human rights abuses.

The USAC Judicial Board decided in a 4-0-2 vote that Singh’s and Rogers’ votes were “valid and legitimate.”

The resolution, Judicial Board case and other divestment-related issues have been the center of controversy on and off campus, with numerous external media groups reporting on the events.

According to USAC bylaws, a conflict of interest occurs when councilmembers have “an unauthorized financial interest or obligation which might cause divided loyalty or even the appearance of divided loyalty.” A 2011 Judicial Board case set the precedent for the clause.

Students for Justice in Palestine members presented their case to the Judicial Board on May 15, claiming that thousands of dollars in gifts could potentially affect the votes and stances of councilmembers. Group members added that they think councilmembers should avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.

During the hearing, Rogers and Singh said they did not use any of their offices’ resources to go on the trips, and they do not have ongoing relationships with the organizations that sponsored the trips.

Both also said they felt personally attacked by Students for Justice in Palestine for going on the trips.

Singh and Rogers said they were happy with the Judicial Board’s decision. Rogers said she thinks the board upheld “the right and responsibility of free speech, free association and education.”

Singh said he thinks the Judicial Board’s decision proves the allegations were baseless.

A memorandum from the Judicial Board said that members are “aware of the sensitivity of the case at hand, but (their) decision is not to be misconstrued as a position on the issue of divestment.”

Members of Students for Justice in Palestine said in a statement that they thought the verdict was a “major blow to the integrity of student government at UCLA.”

The group said it plans to release documentation that shows Singh was asked to use what he learned on his trip in his role as a councilmember and that Project Interchange organizers sent a letter to Rogers asking her to vote against divestment.

The verdict as it stands validates behavior which many students believe was unethical and a violation of the duty of student government representatives,” the statement read.

The full Judicial Board opinion will be made available within two weeks.

Compiled by Janet Nguyen, Bruin contributor.

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  • The_Herman_Cains

    What a disgrace of a decision.

    • Whatever

      You can always go hang out with Hamas if you’re not happy here in America that freedom of speech is upheld. Tell us how you like it there.

  • David

    The Judicial Board was absolutely just in siding with the respondents in this case.
    This latest development was simply another attempt by SJP and other groups to silence dissenting opinions.
    This was a clear attempt to bend the rules in their favor since things didn’t go their way.

    How long will the campus community tolerate this type of behavior, and the continued harassment of individuals who disagree?

    • Whatever

      It is oppression of freedom of speech which is what most radical Islamist groups like SJP seek to do. A university is a place where all speech should be welcome, no matter
      what. Shame on SJP, and shame that Ayaan Hirsi Ali and other brave
      people are not allowed to speak their mind at universities across
      America. SJP is un-American and needs to stop its fascist ways. Breaking affiliation with the terrorist group Hamas would be a great way to start.

  • galileo

    It is time for the SJP to realize that UCLA students can see through their deceptive tactics
    and are determined to restore sanity to this campus.

    • Whatever

      I hope so. Starry eyed idealistic students need to understand what SJP stands for and who it is affiliated with: terrorist Hamas – Islamist, shariah law. Stoning of gays, oppression of women, oppression of freedom of speech, indoctrination of the young, etc. These are all ideals no one in their right mind would support, so people need to stop being so one sided and realize that SJP and other radical Islamist groups aren’t little angels.

      All college students should be against radical Islamist groups like SJP. A university is a place where all speech should be welcome, no matter what. Shame on SJP, and shame that Ayaan Hirsi Ali and other brave people are not allowed to speak their mind at universities across America.

  • Guest

    “group said it plans to release documentation that shows Singh was asked to use what he learned on his trip in his role as a councilmember and that Project Interchange organizers sent a letter to Rogers asking her to vote against divestment.”

    So, things Singh learned from his visit after talks from BOTH SIDES OF THE ARGUMENT (he met with both Israeli entities AND the Palestinian Authority) in a trip that is completely non biased, and a letter to Rogers that was sent to THE ENTIRE USAC COUNCIL and not just her? SJP is SERIOUSLY grasping at straws even further. They just cant understand when theyve been beaten.

    BTW, both of the things mentioned they they will release were submitted to the JBoard as evidence, so its not like both these things werent taken into consideration when forming the decisions.

    Its funny that they go to Jboard as a last resort, revering them as the sensible ones and putting them on a pedistal, claiming that Jboard will bring justice; and as soon as things dot go their way, they call into question the integrity of the court they so heavily relied on. What a sickening display of hypocrisy these people present.

  • umm

    so most student groups don’t have a budget of several thousand dollars to send elected representatives on free trips like these external orgs. Should they just assume that these “education trips” are completely neutral and won’t affect the representatives’ behavior?

    • Elon

      Everything affects behavior. That’s what education means. The only question before the Judicial Board was the legality of the trips. There is no question they made the right call.

  • Elon

    SJP doesn’t understand something. Things are not unethical become some students “believe” they are. Things are unethical when there are actual, provable ethical violations involved. A case is not shown when things are “very possible.” There is something called a burden of proof, which is an actual ethical principle of fairness. These guys are digging themselves deeper and deeper, and they have no concept of when to shut up.

    • Whatever

      Guilty until proven innocent is the mantra of Islamists such as SJP (affiliated with terrorist group Hamas)

  • ThisIsPalestine

    I think the next case the J Board should cover is if SJP is a hate group and whether or not it should be banned from UCLA. I vote yes.

  • ThisIsPalestine

    Why didn’t SJP also complain about Ryan Murphy, who also went on the trip to Israel but is already in their camp? Oh, that’s right, because they don’t actually mind bias, as long as it’s bias in their favor.

    Get these partisan thugs off UCLA’s campus.

    • Elon

      Devin Murphy