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U. Michigan Sanctions Professor For Refusing Student Letter For Israel Program

(JTA) — The University of Michigan is sanctioning the professor who refused to write a letter of recommendation for a student to study in Israel because he supports a boycott of the country.

John Cheney-Lippold, a professor of American culture, last month declined to recommend junior Abigail Ingber for a semester abroad in Israel because he supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against the country, known as BDS.

Cheney-Lippold, a tenured American and digital studies associate professor, will not get a merit raise during the 2018-19 academic year and will not be permitted go on his scheduled sabbatical in January or any other sabbatical for two years, according to a letter signed by Elizabeth Cole, the interim dean of the university’s College of Literature, Science and the Arts, the Detroit News reported Tuesday. The newspaper said it obtained a copy of the letter through the Freedom of Information Act.

He could also face additional discipline, up to and including dismissal, if a similar incident occurs in the future, Cole wrote in the letter, dated Oct. 3, the newspaper reported.

News of the discipline came the same day as a report that a second academic at the university refused to write a letter of recommendation for a junior to study in Israel.

Cheney-Lippold had written two letters for students who wanted to study in Israel before his tenure became official on Sept. 1. He also used an entire class period in two courses to discuss the BDS movement against Israel and his decision to not write a letter for Ingber.

Cheney-Lippold’s case has been referred to a local attorney who is an expert on the topic of censorship, the newspaper reported, citing Radhika Sainath, a Palestine Legal staff attorney who is advising him.

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