The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) commended the University of Michigan (U-M) today for disciplining Professor John Cheney-Lippold for refusing to write a recommendation letter for a deserving student because she wanted to study in Israel.
The Detroit News reported last evening that it obtained a letter signed by Elizabeth Cole, the interim dean of U-M’s College of Literature, Science and the Arts, which states that Cheney-Lippold (1) will not get a merit raise; (2) cannot go on his upcoming sabbatical in January or on another sabbatical for two years; and (3) could face additional discipline, including dismissal, if a similar incident occurs.
In addition, U-M President Mark S. Schlissel and Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Martin A. Philbert issued a letter to the campus community yesterday, which provides that withholding letters of recommendation based on personal views “will not be tolerated and will be addressed with serious consequences. Such actions interfere with our students’ opportunities, violate their academic freedom and betray our university’s educational mission.
This was precisely the argument the ZOA made in a September 21 letter to President Schlissel and the Board of Regents, urging them to strongly sanction Cheney-Lippold for his wrongdoing in violation of U-M policies.
Morton A. Klein, the ZOA’s National President, and Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., the director of the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice, praised U-M, stating: “We are glad to see that the University has taken a strong stand against a professor who wrongly used his power and platform to impose his anti-Israel hostility on a student and impede her educational aspirations.
“More needs to be done. A graduate student instructor at U-M also recently denied a letter of recommendation to a student because the student was seeking to study in Israel. This instructor must be harshly sanctioned as well.
“Also, yesterday’s statement to the campus community acknowledged the offensive image that was presented in a lecture delivered last week as part of the Stamps School of Art & Design’s speaker series. The lecturer displayed an image comparing Benjamin Netanyahu to Adolf Hitler. U-M’s President and Provost stated, ‘We understand how these images are offensive, particularly in this case to Jewish students. We are sorry students were hurt by this experience.’ “As we expressed in an October 8 letter to the U-M leadership, they must issue a stronger response to comparisons of Israelis to Nazis. They should label those comparisons as anti-Semitic, as the U.S. government does in its working definition of anti-Semitism, and publicly condemn them. In addition, U-M leaders should make it clear that such comparisons are not just offensive and hurtful to Jewish students. Comparing any Israeli leader to Hitler is a deliberately grotesque distortion of history that offends us all and damages the university’s commitment to the truth.”