UCLA students’ Israel visit not wrong, school judges rule

Jewish groups call for end to harassment by BDS supporters

Rebecca Shimoni Stoil is the Times of Israel's Washington correspondent.

Members of UCLA’s student government listen to supporters and opponents of a divestment resolution targeting Israel, February 26, 2014. (Courtesy of StandWithUs)
Members of UCLA’s student government listen to supporters and opponents of a divestment resolution targeting Israel, February 26, 2014. (Courtesy of StandWithUs)

WASHINGTON — On a campus fraught with tension between pro- and anti-Israel students, the University of California Los Angeles’ Judicial Board ruled late Wednesday that two students who had visited Israel on American Jewish Committee and Anti-Defamation League tours had done no wrong in failing to disclose their participation before participating in a vote on divestment. The complaint against the two students – Sunny Singh and Lauren Rogers – was filed by the UCLA chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) after a divestment vote failed to past the university’s highest student legislative body by a vote of 5-7.

Both Singh and Rogers participated in the February vote, but their votes on the referendum were secret.

On Wednesday, however, UCLA’s Judicial Board ruled in a 4-0 vote with two abstentions that it does not constitute a conflict of interest for student government officers to take sponsored trips to Israel. The decision came after the Judicial Board heard over four hours of arguments, cross-examination and expert testimony during a hearing last week.

Both the AJC and the ADL’s representatives argued that the trip’s sponsors had in no way indicated that the trip was trade-off for a vote against the resolution to divest from companies that did business in the West Bank.

AJC Los Angeles Region president Dean Schramm said Wednesday night that although the organization was “pleased with the Judicial Board decision,” the AJC was also “deeply troubled that the UCLA Administration has abdicated its responsibility to its students.”

Rogers, he said, who had participated in an AJC-sponsored tour, “was subjected for months to a hurtful and threatening environment on the very campus she has served with distinction and to which she remains deeply committed.”

“While the members of the Judicial Board proved to be conscientious, Ms. Rogers should not have been hauled before it in the first place to answer to this baseless complaint and during mid-terms examinations no less,” Schramm complained.

The mood on campus has remained highly contentious. In the run-up to student council elections last week, a number of groups including SJP, the Muslim Students Association and the Jewish Voice for Peace all publicly asked candidates to sign an “ethics pledge” assuring voters that they would not participate in subsidized trips to Israel sponsored by the ADL, Aish International and AIPAC.

Singh, who ran for Student Council president in the midst of the controversy over his participation in an ADL-run trip, was narrowly defeated during the elections last week.

In a statement Wednesday, the AJC reiterated calls for UCLA student leaders and administration officials “to take meaningful actions, and to do so expeditiously, to protect students from harassment and personal, vengeful attacks.”

“No student should be allowed to be treated this way,” said Schramm.  “We hope the statements by UCLA Chancellor Gene Block and UC President Janet Napolitano, issued after the May 15th Judicial Board hearing, will lead to concrete steps to ensure that vindictive campaigns are recognized as the real violations of campus ethics.”

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