A special committee for the UC system chose a UCLA economics major, Abraham (Avi) Oved, who is active in campus Jewish organizations and whose parents hail from Israel, to become one of the two student representatives on the UC regents board, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The other representative already on the board is Sadia Saifuddin, a UC Berkeley student, who will serve through the 2014-15 school year. Saifuddin, who is Muslim, has championed divesting university funds from companies that work with Israel’s military.
This decision comes after the furor on UC campuses over the BDS movement targeting Israel and a recent controversy erupting from those wishing to deny undergraduate student council offices trips to Israel.
Oved, a senior in the 2014-2015 school year, has been the internal vice president of the campus undergraduate student government as well as participating in the UCLA Jewish Student Union and the Hillel organization.
UC officials stated that the reason Oved was chosen was because he was the strongest candidate, not to balance the board regarding disputes involving Israel. Oved has opposed divestment; he has suggested that UC invest in companies that work to establish peace between Israelis and Palestinians. He told the Times, “I think it’s an absolutely beautiful statement for UC to have a Jewish student and a Muslim student work together regardless of religious or political or cultural differences, in order to improve higher education,” adding that he hoped working with Saifuddin would be an example for opposing groups to “come together and focus on similarities rather than differences.”
UC regent George Kieffer, who headed the committee choosing the student regents, told the Times, “We didn’t focus on Sadia as a Muslim student last year, and we didn’t focus on Avi as a Jewish student this year. We just made the best selection.” He praised the process for “the openness and vibrancy of the university and the university’s undergraduates.”
Oved would be the regent-designate for a year, giving him a voice but no vote; in 2015-16, he would take Saifuddin’s place. Saifuddin called Oved “an enthusiastic and capable leader, and an avid learner.”