Dear members of the UCSA Board,
SJP West is writing to voice serious concerns about the recent developments surrounding the student-regent designate, Avi Oved, and the possibility that he accepted a financial contribution from Adam Milstein during his political campaign in 2013. While Students for Justice in Palestine is an organization with views on Israel/Palestine and divestment that are at odds with those of Oved and his party slate, the issue at hand is not divestment, but the potential violation of transparency and ethicality so integral for a student representative to uphold. The evidence presented to date suggests that a student who will potentially be tasked with representing the entire University of California student body willfully undermined the democratic process by seeking outside funding from an individual with a partisan political agenda. This is profoundly troubling because it sends the message that student political favors are for sale and that the general student body’s needs may be of secondary importance to the desires of such off-campus political donors.
Despite political differences, all students should be able to know that our representatives are only answerable to student concerns and not those of outside entities. Student representatives must be solely accountable to their constituents. It is absolutely essential for these charges to be thoroughly ruled out: how can we hold state and federal leaders to account if we cannot even do the same for our own student leaders? We need to be absolutely certain that the student regent designate’s loyalties lie with UC students first and foremost and not with outside organizations.
Furthermore, we find Milstein’s public displays of racist and Islamophobic sentiment repugnant, and Avi Oved’s potential solicitation of funds from such a donor to be a matter of grave concern. Representing the UC’s diverse student body requires a student regent with a demonstrated commitment to openness and tolerance. Avi Oved’s refusal to distance himself publicly from this exchange suggests an incompatibility with these qualities. Even excluding the substantive content of Mr. Milstein’s beliefs, the possibility that the integrity of student government is being undermined by outside forces to further a particular political agenda is unacceptable and must be investigated thoroughly.
Finally, it is very alarming that Oved refused, for no apparent reason, to join the UCSA’s conference call specifically held for him to answer questions and be accountable to his constituents. In addition to this, his lack of explicit denial of accepting those contributions from Milstein and of the email’s authenticity are also disturbingly telling. Both participation in a conversation about these allegations and an assurance that the contributions did not take place would have been crucial to preserving student trust in their student regent-designate. An investigation is hence paramount to ensure that Oved is the right candidate for this position and that students can trust him to represent them fairly and transparently.
We hope that these allegations will be investigated in as scrupulous a manner as possible. The credibility of our student representation may very well depend on it.
Students for Justice in Palestine West
Jewish Voice for Peace at UCLA