University of Michigan punishes professor over Israel letter controversy

University of Michigan punishes professor over Israel letter controversy

Anti-Israel professor disciplined by University of Michigan for letter controversy

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UM Professor John Cheney-Lippold was disciplined for refusing to write a letter of recommendation for a student because she was applying to study abroad in Israel. (University of Michigan)

A tenured University of Michigan professor has been disciplined for refusing to write a letter of recommendation for a student who wanted to study in Israel.

John Cheney-Lippold won’t get a merit increase for the next academic year and cannot go on his planned sabbatical in January or another one over the next two years, The Detroit News reported.

Last month, Cheney-Lippold refused to write a letter of recommendation for junior Abigail Ingber after he found out she wanted to study in Tel Aviv, citing his support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against the Jewish State.

“I am very sorry, but I only scanned your first email a couple weeks ago and missed out on a key detail,” Cheney-Lippold wrote to Ingber. “As you may know, many university departments have pledged an academic boycott against Israel in support of Palestinians living in Palestine. This boycott includes writing letters of recommendation for students planning to study there.”

Ingber’s father, Mark, called on the university to fire Cheney-Lippold, calling his actions “anti-Semitic” and “manipulative.” Ingber pointed out Cheney-Lippold’s tenure became effective on Sept. 1, after he agreed to write the letter but before he refused, which rendered him effectively immune to punishment.

In the letter obtained through a FOIA request by Detroit News, Elizabeth Cole, the interim dean of UM’s College of Literature, Science and the Arts, issued Cheney-Lippold a “strong warning” for “inappropriate” behavior that “will not be tolerated," and if the professor does it again, he could lose his job.

Cole said Cheney-Lippold should not push his “personal political beliefs” on an unsuspecting female student but instead judge her merits.

MICHIGAN PROFESSOR SLAMMED AFTER REFUSING TO WRITE LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION FOR STUDENT APPLYING TO STUDY IN ISRAEL

The letter also criticizes the professor, who teaches digital studies, for using class time to discuss his views on Israel, the BDS movement, and his decision not to write a letter of recommendation for Ingber, who has since been accepted to the program in Israel.

UM’s discipline of Cheney-Lippold comes as it emerged a second instructor at the university refused to write a letter of recommendation for a student whose father is Israeli, citing support for the BDS movement.

Graduate student instructor, Lucy Peterson, agreed to write a letter for junior, Jake Secker, until she found out he wanted to study in Tel Aviv, the Washington Post reported.

Anti-Defamation League CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, said Michigan needs to take immediate action in the wake of both incidents.

“Boycotts such as these, refusing to recommend a worthy student solely because she intended to study in Israel, have a chilling effect on Jewish and pro-Israel students on campus, who may feel isolated and vulnerable when authority figures or campus groups express hostility or shun them based on their views and associations,” Greenblatt said.


Posted in Ann Arbor