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U. Michigan Adopts New Recommendation Over Prof Who Discriminated Against Student Over Israel

U. Michigan Adopts New Recommendation Over Prof Who Discriminated Against Student Over Israel

“faculty must judge students only on the basis of their academic performance and leave everything else on the sidelines”

This professor rescinded an offer to write a letter of recommendation for a student when the student revealed she was going to study abroad in Israel.

We have covered this story since last fall. Read the back story here and here.

Here is the update, via MLive:

Student recommendation decisions should be academic-based, UM panel says

Faculty recommendations for students must be based solely on educational and professional reasons, according to a statement of principle recommended by a University of Michigan panel.

The recommendation from the six-member Blue Ribbon panel of UM faculty members was accepted by Provost Martin Philbert after its March 21 submission. It comes in the wake of an incident last fall when a UM professor rescinded an offer of a recommendation letter for a student to study in Israel.

John Cheney-Lippold, a UM associate professor of American culture, was punished by the university in October 2018 after telling the student he was taking part in an academic boycott against Israel, and could no longer provide the recommendation. He is no longer eligible for a merit pay increase for the 2018-19 academic year and his sabbatical eligibility has been frozen for two years.

“In all such settings, absent the most unusual circumstances, faculty must base their actions solely on educational and professional reasons,” the new statement of principle reads in part.

The statement is well-reasoned and solidly grounded in the traditions and past practices of the university and its faculty, Philbert told the University Record.

“I believe this is a strong statement that makes it clear that faculty must judge students only on the basis of their academic performance and leave everything else on the sidelines,” he said.


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healthguyfsu | April 24, 2019 at 8:43 am

Well, that’s a foolish statement by the provost with implications far beyond the snobbery of this particular d*ckhead prof.

A letter of rec will essentially be a rubber stamp from U Mich at this point.

If academic performance were the only measure, then letters are unnecessary and the transcript alone is sufficient.

The statement should have had more teeth and specificity. “Faculty must not discriminate against student recommendations based on the student’s choice of scholarship program, internship destination, etc.”

This seems retrograde. Bureaucratic virtue-signaling with counterproductive effects.

Suppose Prof. Cheney-Lippold had complied with such directions when asked for a letter. He knows that the student is participating in a program which, for reasons good or bad (most probably bad) the prof opposes. What kind of letter is he likely to write? He has to write one, but it doesn’t have to be a good one, or even an honest one. The student would probably have no clue about the prof’s basic hostility.

On the other hand, without any such administrative rule, the Prof isn’t obligated to write any letter at all, and he can say so without fear of repercussion. The student would then be alerted to look for a more congenial person to write his letter.

    Edward in reply to tom_swift. | April 24, 2019 at 9:34 am

    It has been more than a few decades since I was a student, but I still can remember which professors/associate professors would have been more likely to write a glowing reference.

He should have been fired. If a Professor provably takes action against a student because he disagrees with his politics, it’s obvious that this Professor shouldn’t be in the classroom.

    healthguyfsu in reply to Jackie. | April 25, 2019 at 6:46 am

    Wrong….letter writing is not a requirement, nor should it be lest the recommendations become meaningless.

    If we were talking about grade penalties then you have a better argument.