An instructor at the University of Michigan took back an offer to write a letter of recommendation for a student after learning it was for a program in Israel, the Washington Post reported Tuesday. This is the second such event to have happened at the university in the past month.
Jake Secker, a 20-year-old junior and son of an Israeli, was hoping to spend the winter semester abroad at Tel Aviv University. He reached out to Lucy Peterson, a teaching assistant from an introduction to political theory course he took last year, for a recommendation to complete his application.
Peterson, who according to her Facebook profile is a political theory student at the university, replied the same day, telling him that she’d be “delighted” to help.
When Secker told her where he was applying, she rescinded her offer, citing her commitment to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
“I’m so sorry that I didn’t ask before agreeing to write your recommendation letter, but I regrettably will not be able to write on your behalf,” she wrote in an email seen by the Post. “Along with numerous other academics in the US and elsewhere, I have pledged myself to a boycott of Israeli institutions as a way of showing solidarity with Palestine.”
She added that it wasn’t about him as a student or person. “I would be happy to write a recommendation for you if you end up applying to other programs,” she said.
After receiving a complaint from Secker and his parents, the associate dean of his school offered to write the recommendation for him herself.
Last month, John Cheney-Lippold, an American culture professor at the University of Michigan, wrote a similar email to Abigail Ingber, another junior at the school looking to attend a program in Israel.
Following the initial incident, the university put out a statement, insisting it had “consistently opposed any boycott of Israeli institutions of higher education” and that it was “disappointing that a faculty member would allow their personal political beliefs to limit the support they are willing to otherwise provide for our students.”