A University of Michigan professor has been slammed for refusing to write a letter of recommendation for a student applying to study in Israel.
John Cheney-Lippold, a UM digital studies professor, notified the student, Abigail Ingber, of his decision in an email that has since gone viral after Club Z, a Zionist youth organization, posted a screenshot on its Facebook page.
“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. “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.”
University of Michigan College Republicans President, Dylan Berger, released a statement condemning this “abhorrent discriminatory and anti-Semitic action,” pointing to a culture created by President Schlissel after he accused students who supported President Trump of supporting “hate and fractiousness” at a post-2016 election vigil on campus.
“If President Schlissel is serious about restoring intellectual diversity on campus, he will terminate professor John Cheney-Lippold and retract his remarks that ostracized a significant portion of the student body of the university that he claims to lead,” Berger wrote.
Cheney-Lippold told the Michigan Daily “the perennial claim of anti-Semitism I fully deny,” adding that he was just “following a call by representative of Palestinian civil society to boycott Israel in a very similar tactical frame as South Africa.”
UM spokesman Rick Fitzgerald told Fox News “the university has consistently opposed any boycott of Israeli institutions of higher education,” adding that “injecting personal politics into a decision regarding support for our students is counter to our values and expectations as an institution.”
In an earlier statement, the university said it was “disappointed” in Cheney-Lippold and it will engage faculty “in deep discussions to clarify how the expression of our shared values plays out in support of all our students.”
UM leadership, including the president and the provost, have publicly denounced boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. Last November, the Board of Regents rejected a pro-BDS proposal that passed the student government.
Early last year, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law a bill that prohibits boycotts against individuals or a public entity of a foreign state.
Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt slammed the professor’s actions on Twitter.
“Not acceptable,” Greenblatt wrote. “A student striving to learn and further their education should never be a victim of political bias. The university needs to publicly clarify it opposes the academic boycott of Israel.”