Thursday, September 27, 2018
University of Michigan Professor John Cheney-Lippold and the Denial of a Letter of Recommendation to a Student Who Wishes to Study Abroad in Israel
Professor Cheney-Lippold of the University of Michigan is caught up in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) against Israel. He equates Israel with the Apartheid regime of South Africa. The professor agreed to write a letter of recommendation for a student who wished to study abroad for a semester. Oops! He sent a retraction letter two weeks later to the student. He hadn’t read that the study abroad would be at Tel Aviv University in Israel. He emailed her: “I am very sorry, but I only scanned your first email a couple of weeks ago and missed out on a key detail. As you may know, many universities and departments have pledged an economic boycott against Israel in support of Palestinians living in Palestine. This boycott includes writing letters of recommendation for students planning to study there.” The July 2014 Guidelines by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel included the refusal to write recommendations for students wishing to study in Israel. He was wrong. No University of Michigan department has pledged an academic boycott against Israel. It would be against university policy. Professor Cheney-Lippold told the Michigan daily that he is not anti-Semitic. He continued that he was “following a call by representatives of Palestinian civil society to boycott Israel in a very similar tactical frame as South Africa.” He’s against the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians, viewing Israel as an occupying force. He said the purpose of BDS is to put pressure on an Israeli government that perpetuates “violence and dehumanization.” The BDS Movement proclaims itself to be against Israel and Zionism. It’s anti-Semitism masking under the guise of BDS. Anti-Semitism never disappeared, but it is growing in Europe and in higher education. He’s following the BDS guidelines, but not those of the University of Michigan. The University said it was “disappointed” in his action. It said it will engage “in deep discussions to clarify how the freedom of our shared values plays out in support of all our students.” The Central Student Government voted 23-17 with five abstentions last year to request the University to divest from companies that “violate” Palestinian human rights. The Board of Regents rejected the student resolution. The problem with the University is that the professor has tenure. Governor Snyder last year signed a statute that prohibits boycotts against individuals or a public entity of a foreign state. Professor Cheney-Lippold has the academic freedom and freedom of speech to support the BDS Movement against Israel. He can speak and write in support of it. What he can’t do is shove his political bias down the throats of his students. About 7,000 Michigan’s students are Jewish, 17% of undergrads and 11% of graduate students. UM President Marc Schlissel is Jewish. President Schlissel said at a Board of Regents meeting September 20 that a professor’s “personal views and politics should never interfere with our support of students.” He reiterated: “I will state again: the University of Michigan strongly opposes a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.” Regent Denise Ilitch called the professor’s remarks “anti-Semitic.” The University issued a statement on September 18: “Injecting personal politics into a decision regarding support for our students is counter to our values and expectations as an institution.” “While members of the University of Michigan community have a wide range of individual opinions on this and many topics, the university has consistently opposed any boycott of Israeli institutions of higher education” The professor has breached his obligation to his students. His obligation includes writing letters of recommendations for students. Students come to me for recommendations for employment, graduate programs and bar certification. They also seek recommendations to transfer. I hate those requests. I hate seeing good students transfer, but I have an obligation to write the best recommendations I can for them. I wish them the best in their careers as they move on. I will only refuse specific students if I cannot write a good recommendation for them, but they rarely come to me. Professor Cheney-Lippold is very selective in his outrage as are many of his leftish colleagues that populate the professoriate. He doesn’t say a word about the 600,000 Jews forced off their lands by the Arabs. What is their right of return? He doesn’t write about the Contemporeaneous oppression and terrorist attacks against Jews and Christians in many of the Arab countries. He doesn’t write about how the Palestinians in Israel have a better life than those in Gaza and the West Bank. He doesn’t write about how the Palestinians in Israel are treated better than the Christians and Jews in much of the Mideast. He doesn’t write about the continued forced exodus of Christians from the Mideast. What does he think about Turkey and first the Armenians and now the Kurds? Professor John Cheney-Lippold is proof that a Ph.D. does not necessarily bestow wisdom or tolerance. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- By way of disclosure, I grew up the son of a single mom. My parents split about 3 months before I was born. My father stayed totally out of my life. He only gave me two things in life: my surname and half my DNA. My mom didn’t want to talk about him and I didn’t ask. 23andMe a few years ago reported I am 46.5% Ashkenazi. My dad was Jewish. I later went on Ancestry.com. His parents, my grandparents, emigrated from Romania in 1905 and spoke Yiddish. A second opinion from Ancestry.com said I was 40% European Jewish. The two companies analyze DNA differently. Ancestry.com a few weeks ago issued an updated report in light of 16,000 representatives compared to the earlier 3,000. It now says I am 57% European Jewish, which means my mom was right about my Swedish grandmother. My mom thought her mother, Grandma Rose, born in Sweden, might be Jewish as part of the Jewish diaspora fleeing pogroms in Russia. I am neither Jewish by religion nor culture, but I am obviously Jewish by ancestry. My ancestry from countries is 1/8 French, 1/8 Italian, ¼ Swedish and ½ Romanian. The Romanian is Ashkenazi.