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UCLA students cleared of conflict of interest in Middle East visits

Panel clears UCLA students accused of conflicts of interest after they took sponsored trips to Israel

A UCLA student judicial board has found that two undergraduate leaders who took sponsored trips to the Middle East did not violate the school’s ethics policy when they voted on a resolution urging UC regents to divest from some companies doing business with Israel.

The panel voted 4 to 0, with two abstentions, that the votes were legal. The decision was released Wednesday night.

Student leaders voted on the resolution in February after a nearly 12-hour meeting. Emotions were so heated that the ballots were kept secret, and the resolution was not approved. One of the student representatives, Sunny Singh, had taken a trip sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League, and Lauren Rogers went on a Project Interchange trip.

Trips sponsored by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Anti-Defamation League or Hasbara Fellowships became a controversial topic during UCLA’s most recent student election.

Candidates were asked to sign a pledge not to take trips to Israel that are sponsored by the three groups, which the pledge called “Islamophobic.” Several groups, including Students for Justice in Palestine, supported the pledge.

The statement also called on student representatives to refrain from trips supported by groups that promote discrimination on the basis of race, religion and other factors.

Seventeen of the nearly 30 students who ran for office signed the promise.

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block and said he was “troubled” by the pledge because it “sought to delegitimize educational trips offered by some organizations but not others.”

UC President Janet Napolitano also said the pledge violated principles of civility and respect.

Student supporters of the pledge said their efforts were mischaracterized by Block and Napolitano.

Representatives for the the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Anti-Defamation League or Hasbara Fellowships said that students are not chosen for the trips on the basis of their beliefs and that the voyages are purely educational.

In its ruling, the student judicial panel tried to distance itself from the recent controversies.

“The judicial board is aware of the sensitivity of the case at hand, but its decision is not to be misconstrued as a position on the issue of divestment,” the board wrote in a memo.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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