Professor Refuses to Write Recommendation for Student to Study Abroad in Israel

A professor from the University of Michigan has been criticized for refusing to write a letter of recommendation for a student who wanted to study abroad in Israel.

John Cheney-Lippold, a UM digital studies professor at the university, emailed the student, Abigail Ingber, who asked Cheney-Lippold to write her a recommendation letter for an application to study abroad in Israel, The Michigan Daily reported. The letter Ingber received was posted Sunday to the Club Z Facebook page, a Zionist youth organization at the university.

"An unbelievable email from a University of Michigan professor, who has refused to write a letter of recommendation for a student because she will be studying abroad in Israel," the club wrote in a statement on their Facebook page. "We hope that the U.S. Department of Education will take note of this case, in light of their recently adopted definition of anti-Semitism, which includes double standard for Israel."

In the letter, Cheney-Lippold tells Ingber he cannot write her a letter of recommendation because of the boycott some of the university departments have committed to an academic boycott to support Palestinians living in Palestine.

"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," Cheney-Lippold wrote. "I should have let you known earlier, and for that I apologize. But for reasons of these politics, I must rescind my offer to write your letter."

Cheney-Lippold told The Michigan Daily that the university does not have a political stance on the issue, and said he chose not to write the recommendation letter due to his own personal, political stance.

"I follow the idea that people who are being discriminated against or people who need help … I feel compelled to help them. I was following a call by representatives of Palestinian civil society to boycott Israel in a very similar tactical frame as South Africa," he told the publication. "The idea is that I support communities who organize themselves and ask for international support to achieve equal rights, freedom and to prevent violations of international law."

In a statement emailed to Newsweek, a spokesperson from the University of Michigan stated that "the university has consistently opposed any boycott of Israeli institutions of higher education." The spokesperson said no department at the university has taken a political stance on the matter.

"Injecting personal politics into a decision regarding support for our students is counter to our values and expectations as an institution," the university spokesperson wrote in the email.

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The University of Michigan logo is pictured in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on April 2, 2014. A professor at the university is being slammed for rescinding his offer to write a student a letter of recommendation for her application to apply to study abroad in Israel. REUTERS/Larry Downing/File Photo