Q&A: Student regent-designate nominee discusses allegations, plans
By Jeong Park
July 4, 2014 5:07 p.m.
The original version of this article contained an error and has been changed. See the bottom of the article for more information.
The University of California Student Association Systemwide Affairs Committee voted 10-0-2 in a closed session meeting on Thursday to recommend that the UC Board of Regents hold off on the confirmation of student regent-designate nominee Avi Oved until September.
The meeting was convened in light of allegations against Oved, the Undergraduate Students Association Council internal vice president for the 2013-2014 academic year, that he and the Bruins United slate received campaign funds from Adam Milstein, a noted donor to many pro-Israel organizations, while running for USAC.
Oved was not present for an emergency UCSA teleconference on Tuesday about the allegations, instead releasing a statement in which he called the allegations against him “baseless” and “nothing more than an attack against (him) as a pro-Israel student.”
Two days later, Oved spoke with members of the Systemwide Affairs Committee during Thursday’s closed session meeting, confirming that he sent an email to Milstein thanking him for making a donation, although he said the donation was for Hillel at UCLA, not for himself or for the Bruins United slate.
The Daily Bruin’s Jeong Park spoke with Oved Friday about the email and recent allegations brought against Oved.
Daily Bruin: In the meeting Thursday, you said you wrote the email to Adam Milstein to thank him for his donation. Can you clarify the email?
Avi Oved: That letter was thanking Milstein for making a donation to Hillel. At the time, I had an internship at Hillel that gave me a lot of opportunities to establish myself as a leader and that was a stepping-stone for me to seek a different position. That was the point of the email.
DB: Why did the email mention supporting the Bruins United slate for the USAC election last year?
AO: Hillel supported (Bruins United), and Milstein was a huge supporter of Hillel. Given that my internship was leadership-based, I wanted to let him know I was pursuing a different position in the student government.
DB: Why did you not confirm the validity of the email in Tuesday’s statement?
AO: I didn’t find it to be quite relevant. (The) first and only accusation (addressed to me) was that I violated the USAC election code. There was no rule or protocol in terms of detailing where you got your funds from. The only rule that is detailed in the election code bylaws is informing the board (about the amount of money) you have and how much you have used.
When people say I was not transparent throughout the process, the issue is that there is no mechanism to showcase that information. Even if I wanted to say where I got my funding from – which applies to no candidate at the USAC election – even if I wanted to share that with the public, there was no means to do so. There is no opportunity for you to say that I got money from X, Y and Z.
It was outrageous to me to say that I violated or wasn’t transparent enough in the whole election code. Requiring me to be the only one to show the information goes against the whole transparency issue because there is a huge group of people who weren’t part of (a) transparent process. If USAC wants that information to be included in the future, so be it, but it is unfair (to say) that I was not transparent when there was no mechanism to (disclose the information).
DB: Why did you decide not to participate in the first conference call? Why did you want to wait the two extra days?
AO: I didn’t think it was going to be a productive forum for me to address the concern. I thought I could address the issue through the statement. I read the comments and heard what people were saying, so I realized that I needed to address the issue through another forum.
DB: Did you receive money from Milstein through Hillel for your USAC campaign for the internal vice president position?
AO: I did not receive any donation from Milstein or Milstein’s foundation. If any donation was received, it was through Hillel. I was not involved. All of that (may have been) done through Hillel. That was the dynamic of the situation. That’s obvious. Bruins United (is funded) through corporate sponsorships. That’s very public. Other slates get personal donations from other people, so I don’t understand why those are a big problem.
DB: Has Hillel at UCLA given financial campaign contributions to Bruins United other times besides this? Has Bruins United received other donations from pro-Israel groups as far as you know?
AO: I don’t think so, and no, Hillel did not give a campaign contribution to (Bruins United before 2013) from what I know. What I know is that Hillel did contribute to Bruins United in 2013 when I ran for internal vice president. That was the gist of my understanding. Whether Hillel had contributed money to (Bruins United before 2013), that would be a question for Hillel.
DB: Do you plan to work with the independent entity investigating these allegations? If so, how?
AO: UCSA can choose whatever entity to further an investigation, but the investigation will find that there was no conflict of interest. No one did anything wrong. I was in complete compliance of any bylaw or protocol. This is a function of politics. Every slate gets donations through different organizations and they don’t have to disclose (them), so I am curious why I have to disclose the information without having others meet the requirement.
DB: Have you been talking with the UC or the regents at all since this started? If so, have they told you anything about your impending appointment?
AO: I plan on moving forward with the confirmation process. I am trying to lay the groundwork for the work I want to do. This issue, the Israel and Palestine conflict or divestment, is not really going to be the focus. There (are) more pressing issues for the UC. Some of (the) key issues I really want to push for (are) sexual violence prevention, increasing student representation on the Board of Regents and making sure we have a strong relationship with the California State University, California Community Colleges, etc. so we collectively advocate for higher education. Those issues are issues students care about.
There is a need to look at the bigger picture. This issue of divestment was also (a concern) when (current student regent-designate Sadia Saifuddin) was appointed, but as you saw, the issue didn’t come up because the issue was not pertinent to the Board of Regents. I want to focus on the work I have (been) appointed to do.
DB: Was the concern about your pro-Israel stance brought up during the selection process?
AO: I was very transparent. I was very vocal (about) the position I had on divestment, etc. I never hid that in some sort of capacity. Those in the selection process knew where I stood on those issues. My stance on those issues is not relevant to the work I want to do. There is no conflict of interest whatsoever because people knew where I stand.
DB: If you are still confirmed as the student regent-designate, how do you plan to work with UCSA in the future? Some students have expressed concerns that this incident may harm your relationship with UCSA members.
AO: I think it’s really important to build a relationship with students in the UC system. I am trying to be very present and engaged (with) UCSA. We will have ups and downs. I want to appreciate the difference on issues but move forward from it. I really want to make sure UCSA and students know what the Board of Regents do and why the Board of Regents is so relevant to students.
DB: Earlier this week there was also some discussion about a GroupMe message in which you allegedly talked about wanting to sit on the regents’ Committee on Investments to block motions of divestment. Did you write that message?
AO: Yes and it was a joke. I regret saying that. It was in poor taste.
DB: Do you know how anyone got these emails and this GroupMe message?
AO: No, I don’t.
DB: Do you have any regrets about this situation, your interaction with UCSA and concerned students? Do you wish you would have responded to the accusations sooner?
AO: I (did) not do anything wrong. I am proud that there are those who want to support our causes. I don’t regret getting that support. The past week has been a learning experience for me and it really tested my ability to communicate and to be resilient when being scrutinized. I do regret that there are those who illegally obtained and used those emails to defame my character. I think that is unproductive. But overall, I am going to take this as a learning experience.
DB: Is there anything else you would like to tell us or wish other people would know?
AO: I just want to say that I am truly committed to student interests. I want people to know students are my top priority. (Being nominated as a student regent-designate) has been an amazing opportunity.
Compiled by Jeong Park, Bruin senior staff.
Correction: Oved said he thanked Milstein in the email for donating to Hillel at UCLA.