StandWithUs, a nonprofit pro-Israel education and advocacy organization, sent a letter to University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel, encouraging disciplinary action against the professor, John Cheney-Lippold, who denied a student a letter of recommendation to study in Israel because of his involvement with the BDS movement.
The organization received a response from University of Michigan Assistant Vice President for Public Affairs Rick Fitzgerald:
“The executive arm of our Faculty Senate approved a ‘Statement on Letters of Reference,’ stating, in part, that “faculty should let a student’s merit be the primary guide for determining how and whether to provide such a letter.
“The university has consistently opposed any boycott of Israeli institutions of higher education. No academic department or any other unit at the University of Michigan has taken a stance that departs from this long-held university position.”
Statement on Letters of Reference
The statement of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA), on letters of reference, which was unanimously approved, affirmed its commitment to the American Association of University Professors’ Statement of Professional Ethics, noting the following section related to a professor’s educational responsibilities:
“As teachers, professors encourage the free pursuit of learning in their students,” the section reads. “They hold before them the best scholarly and ethical standards of their discipline. Professors demonstrate respect for students as individuals and adhere to their proper roles as intellectual guides and counselors. Professors make every reasonable effort to foster honest academic conduct and to ensure that their evaluations of students reflect each student’s true merit.
“They respect the confidential nature of the relationship between professor and student. They avoid any exploitation, harassment, or discriminatory treatment of students. They acknowledge significant academic or scholarly assistance from them. They protect their academic freedom.”
In their resolution, SACUA members said, “Within the guidelines set forth by the American Association of University Professors, and ‘demonstrate(ing) respect for students,’ faculty should let a student’s merit be the primary guide for determining how and whether to provide such a letter.”
“We thank the administration for responding to our letter and appreciate their strong opposition to academic boycotts,” said Roz Rothstein, co-founder and CEO of StandWithUs. “We believe it is crucial that they also take public action to ensure that faculty will not inject personal agendas or engage in discrimination when deciding whether or not to support students going forward.”