UCSA looking at allegations about student regent-designate Avi Oved
By Jeong Park
June 29, 2014 2:36 am
The original version of this article and the headline accompanying this article contained an error and have been changed. See the bottom of the article for more information.
This post was updated on July 1 at 9:54 a.m.
On Saturday, the University of California Student Association called for an emergency meeting to discuss whether to look into allegations that Avi Oved, the student regent-designate nominee for the UC Board of Regents, did not disclose a donation from a pro-Israel organization when he ran for a UCLA undergraduate student government position in 2013.
In a UCSA Board of Directors meeting Saturday, Amal Ali, last year’s president of Students for Justice in Palestine at UC Riverside, claimed Oved and other members of the Bruins United slate sent an email in 2013 thanking Adam Milstein, a prominent supporter of pro-Israel organizations, for donating to the slate. Ali alleged that Oved did not report the donation in his campaign finance reports for the election.
However, Kris Kaupalolo, the Undergraduate Students Association Council Election Board adviser, said the Election Code does not require slates or candidates to disclose their campaign funding sources. In the past, slates and candidates have not disclosed where they received funding from.
Bruins United ran eight candidates in the 2013 USAC election and spent about $1,160 on each candidate. Funding for the slate’s campaign came from mainly private donations and corporate sponsorship, along with a $300 contribution from each candidate.
Ali asked for UCSA to investigate whether Milstein donated money to Bruins United on behalf of the Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation, classified as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity. The Internal Revenue Service prohibits 501(c)(3) charities from making political donations.
Jill Horwitz, a professor at the UCLA School of Law who teaches a course on nonprofit tax laws, said if the foundation was found to have donated money, whether the donation was legal or not depends on whether USAC positions are considered public offices.
In a statement Tuesday morning, Milstein said that neither he nor his foundation made a donation to Oved. He said he thinks the allegations are meant to intimidate pro-Israel students and are part of a larger “anti-Semitic smear campaign” on campus.
He urged the regents and UC President Janet Napolitano to condemn the allegations.
An IRS Form 990-PF for the foundation did not show that the Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation contributed to the Bruins United campaign during the 2013 fiscal year. The foundation donated $50,000 to the UCLA Foundation and $10,500 to Hillel at UCLA that year, according to the tax return.
According to the USAC Election Code, USAC candidates and designated campaign representatives are responsible for ensuring that all information reported in their expense accounts is accurate. If the expense reports are inaccurate or fail to disclose all spending, candidates may be disqualified from running for office and can be reprimanded after they are elected to office.
Oved declined to comment immediately following the allegations and said he will address the issue in the upcoming days.
Ken Myers, a Bruins United chair during the 2013 election, said he does not remember if Bruins United received a donation from the Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation and declined to comment. David Bocarsly, the 2012-2013 USAC president and a former member of the Bruins United slate, could not be reached for comment. USAC Internal Vice President Avinoam Baral, who ran with Bruins United for a general representative seat in 2013, and Raquel Saxe, a former Bruins United member and USAC Academic Affairs commissioner, both said they did not recall receiving a donation from the foundation and declined to comment further.
Oved ran for and won the position of USAC internal vice president for the 2013-2014 academic year.
He was nominated by a committee of UC regents in May to serve as the nonvoting student regent-designate for 2014-2015 and as the student regent for 2015-2016. The UC Board of Regents is set to confirm Oved’s nomination during its July meeting at UC San Francisco. The UC regents typically choose from three finalists, which UCSA selects, for the student regent position. UCSA also works closely with the student regent throughout the year.
During the 2013-2014 academic year, divestment and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were at the center of several controversies and drew media attention at multiple UC campuses. Students for Justice in Palestine has been at the forefront of a movement pushing for the UC’s divestment from companies with ties to Israel.
Oved, who is openly pro-Israel, proposed a USAC resolution in October supporting a peaceful approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and investments in certain companies, which some students said they thought was divisive and hurtful to Palestinian students. He also spoke against a controversial divestment resolution that members of Students for Justice in Palestine brought to USAC in February.
Some students on the UCSA Board of Directors said they are concerned about Oved’s ties to pro-Israel groups, referring to a screenshot of a GroupMe message in which Oved allegedly considered sitting on the UC Board of Regents’ Committee on Investments, which will likely handle divestment, as well as the email thanking Milstein, in which Oved allegedly writes about representing the Jewish community in USAC.
If Oved has to vote as a student regent on matters related to divestment, some board members said they think it may bring up a conflict of interest, which will also be discussed at the upcoming emergency UCSA Board of Directors meeting.
Abraham Galván Sánchez, vice president of external affairs for the Associated Students of UC Riverside and a voting member of the UCSA Board of Directors, said that while some members of the UCSA Board of Directors called for the UC regents to hold off on Oved’s confirmation, others disagreed and said they thought there was no substantial evidence against him. They added that doing so could hurt the relationship between UCSA and Oved.
UCSA President Kareem Aref said while some UCSA members have concerns about a possible conflict of interest, most board members’ biggest focus is clarifying whether Election Board rules were properly followed with the donation. Aref said neither UCSA nor its board members have assumed anything and will look at this matter further.
Aref said members of the Board of Directors, Oved and possibly the students who made the allegations against Oved will meet in a conference call.
UCSA may launch an investigation of the claims pending the conference call, Aref said.
The emergency meeting will take place as a teleconference open to the public on Tuesday from 4-6 p.m. Anyone can dial (619) 326-2772 with the access code “770-5193#” to join the call.
Correction: UCSA may investigate the allegations against Oved pending the conference call.