Pro-Palestine Professor Who Rescinded Letter To Let Student Study In Israel Is Getting Punished By The University

Neetu Chandak | Education and Politics Reporter
  • The University of Michigan punished a pro-Palestine professor who refused to sign a recommendation letter for a student wanting to study in Israel.
  • John Cheney-Lippold is ineligible for a merit-based pay raise for the 2018-2019 school year as a result of him rescinding the letter.
  • The university said in a letter that such academic boycotts interfere with students’ academic freedoms.

The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor punished a pro-Palestine professor who rescinded a recommendation letter for a student wanting to study in Israel.

John Cheney-Lippold, an associate professor of American culture at Michigan, originally supported writing a recommendation letter for a student to study abroad. The professor, however, rescinded his support after claiming he scanned the letter and overlooked that it involved studying in Israel, according to an email obtained by Camera on Campus and posted to Twitter on Sept. 17.

“As you may know, many university departments have pledged an academic boycott against Israel in support of Palestinians living in Palestine,” the email, from September, stated. “This boycott includes writing letters of recommendation for students planning to study there.”

The email added that Cheney-Lippold would be willing to write other recommendation letters for the student.

“In the future, a student’s merit should be your primary guide for determining how and whether to provide a letter of recommendation,” Michigan College of Literature, Sciences & Arts Interim Dean Elizabeth Cole said in a letter to Cheney-Lippold on Oct. 3, Ann Arbor News reported Tuesday. “You are not to use student requests for recommendations as a platform to discuss your personal political beliefs.”

Cole added in the letter that professors are not required to write letters for every student for certain reasons such as lack of time or information.

The university placed disciplinary measures on Cheney-Lippold by making him ineligible for a merit pay increase for the 2018-19 school year and pushing his sabbatical leave eligibility from 2019 to 2020, according to Ann Arbor News.

The professor was set for a sabbatical leave in the winter of 2019, Cheney-Lippold’s faculty page stated.

Cheney-Lippold said the academic boycott was a non-violent way of pressuring the Israeli government to end the “occupation of Palestine,” according to an email to the Ann Arbor News. (RELATED: Scholars Reveal Academic Corruption Through Hoax Papers, One On Rape Culture And The Sexual Activity Of Dogs)

“The backlash to my refusal is surprising – with all the talk about ‘free speech’ circulating in public discourse, it seems professors don’t enjoy the same privileges as other citizens,” Cheney-Lippold said, Ann Arbor News reported Sept. 19. “In fact, the backlash suggests that professors have been demoted from thinking and critically-engaged scholars to ’embodied letter of recommendation writing machines’ who have no autonomy or political agency within the process.”

letter from Michigan President Mark S. Schlissel and Martin A. Philbert, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, said two students at the university were denied recommendation letters to study in Israel and that the school does not support such academic boycotts.

“Such actions interfere with our students’ opportunities, violate their academic freedom and betray our university’s educational mission,” the letter stated.

Boycott, Divestments, Sanctions (BDS), a movement that claims Israel is occupying Palestinian land, supports the academic boycotts. The movement claims Israeli universities have “played a key role in planning, implementing and justifying Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies,” according to its website.

BDS did not immediately respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The original article said Cheney-Lippold did not immediately respond to TheDCNF’s request for comment. Due to a technical error, that request never actually went through. TheDCNF will update this article should a comment be received.

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