On the heels of a U-M cultural studies professor withholding a letter of recommendation for a student applying to a program abroad after learning it was in Israel, a second professor at U-M has now gone back on her commitment to a student for the same reason.
Jake Secker, a junior from Great Neck, N.Y., whose father is Israeli, has made many trips to Israel but wanted to live there for a stretch of time. He began the process of applying for a semester of study at Tel Aviv University.
Have reached out to teaching assistant Lucy Peterson, he was first given an enthusiastic agreement to write the necessary letter of recommendation. Upon learning of his destination, she retracted her offer, writing in an email that, “Along with numerous other academics in the U.S. and elsewhere, I have pledged myself to a boycott of Israeli institutions as a way of showing solidarity with Palestine.”
The sentiment echoes that of BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions), which seeks the end of Israeli occupation of “all Arab lands” and can be seen as anti-Semitic.
Secker reached out to a board member of Michigan Hillel, and his complaint has moved up to the university’s Board of Regents. “The president of the university is aware of it,” Secker told the Washington Post.
After meeting with the associate dean of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science and the Arts — who offered to write the letter of recommendation herself and “promised some sort of change,” Secker said — he’d still like to see overall action versus words.
“This is an epidemic that’s starting to begin,” he said. “Especially being someone who has an Israeli background, I took it personally. It really disturbed me.”