Shame on a UMichigan Professor

Michigan Professor, Professor at Michigan, UMich Professor

A University of Michigan professor refused to write a letter of recommendation for a student because of his political beliefs (photo credit: AndrewHorne).

A University of Michigan professor refused to write a letter of recommendation for a student because that student happened to be applying to a semester abroad program in Israel. You see, this professor, John Cheney-Lippold, an associate professor in Michigan’s American culture and digital studies department, is a champion of an academic boycott of Israel “in support of Palestinians living in Palestine,” as he writes in his email to the student. We, of course, find this professor’s decision to refuse to endorse a student for an academic program in the homeland of the Jewish people because the program happens to be in Israel to be disgraceful and anti-Semitic. Indeed we call for the University of Michigan to immediately terminate his employment.

A UMichigan Professor’s Refusal to Write a Recommendation

As reports Elizabeth Redden for “Inside Higher Ed” in a piece entitled “The Right to a Recommendation?,” “‘As you may know, many university departments have pledged an academic boycott against Israel in support of Palestinians living in Palestine,’ says the email from John Cheney-Lippold, an associate professor in the American culture and digital studies department at Michigan. ‘This boycott includes writing letters of recommendation for students planning to study there. I should have let you know earlier, and for that I apologize. But for reasons of these politics, I must rescind my offer to write your letter. Let me know if you need me to write other letters for you, as I’d be happy.” Unsurprisingly, the student did not respond to the professor.

UMichigan Must Do More to Penalize Professor

While the University of Michigan has issued a statement announcing its opposition to the Israeli boycott, it doesn’t seem like the school is doing much in the way of penalizing this professor for refusing to write a letter of recommendation for a student on account of his anti-Israel political views. We take no issue with a professor refusing to write a letter of recommendation for a student because he or she doesn’t like the student or because the student may not have demonstrated great intellectual curiosity in class discussions, but we do take absolute issue with a professor refusing to write a letter on account of his position against Israel.

And while the University of Michigan did denounce this professor’s refusal to write the letter, stating that “injecting personal politics into a decision regarding support for our students is counter to our values and expectations as an institution,” it’s not enough in our book. If the professor’s injection of personal politics into a decision to not write a student’s letter of recommendation is counter to the school’s values and expectations, Michigan should show don’t tell: terminate the professor’s employment.

Agree with us? Disagree? Let us know your thoughts by posting a Comment below.


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1 Comment

  • Rosemary Laberee says:

    If university professors are able to withhold support (based on their own political opinions and ideology) from the students who (pay) and rely on them, where might this trend take us? What would stop a professor from refusing to support students who need references to work on…. say…. certain political campaigns, or a controversial non-profit, or a non-organic farm, or an avaricious hedge fund, or for military service, or for an American flag-hating sporting goods store. With at least 1,001 ways for professors and students to differ on rather important issues, it is terribly dangerous for UMich to let this slide. This professor has deepened the divisive behavior so evident on campuses today and he has demonstrated a ghastly want of logic, leadership, morality and good citizenship. He is not paid to show the students in his classes how he “feels” or to punish them when they challenge his opinions. Obviously, he was never taught how to think. He has done an abhorrent thing and I am embarrassed on behalf of University of Michigan that he is on their staff. This professor should be released from his duties at this university. Furthermore, he should not be teaching young adults at all. He needs very much to grow up himself.

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