- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The University of Michigan has criticized a professor who cited an “academic boycott” when he refused to write a letter of recommendation for a student to study abroad in Israel.

“It is disappointing that a faculty member would allow their personal political beliefs to limit the support they are willing to otherwise provide for our students,” the university said in a statement, CBS News reported.

John Cheney-Lippold, an associate professor in the American culture department, is denying allegations of anti-Semitism after he rescinded his offer to write the letter for student Abigail Ingber.

According to an email to Ms. Ingber — a screenshot of which was posted to Facebook by Club Z, a networking organization for pro-Israel students — Mr. Cheney-Lippold wrote that he had previously agreed to write the letter, but later realized he had “missed out on a key detail.”

“As you may know, many university departments have pledged an academic boycott against Israel in support of the Palestinians living in Palestine,” Mr. Cheney-Lippold wrote, according to the screenshot. “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 to write other letters for you, as I’d be happy,” he wrote.

Mr. Cheney-Lippold told The Michigan Daily student newspaper that he made a mistake in claiming university departments supported the boycott and that he was only expressing his personal opinion.

“I support the boycott because I support solidarity,” he said. “I follow the idea that people who are being discriminated against or people who need help … I feel compelled to help them.

“The perennial claim of anti-Semitism I fully deny,” he continued. “I have no bad will against the student, and I would have very gladly written a letter for any other graduate program or study abroad.”

“As a professor, I’m not just a machine writing things for people,” he added. “I have opinions and even though a letter of recommendation is about the student, a lot of thought goes into them. It’s not a blank check where I’m signing for them to go to any place they want, it is a dialogue.”

In its statement, the university said it would proceed by engaging faculty members in “deep discussions” to clarify “how the expression of our shared values plays out in support of all students.”

Ms. Ingber refused to provide comment to The Michigan Daily until she works out the issue with university officials.

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