College: Prof's refusal to write Israel letter 'disappointing'

A professor at the University of Michigan is facing claims of antisemitism as a result of his refusal to write a student a letter of recommendation to study abroad in Israel.

In an email exchange with the student, Dr. John Cheney-Lippold pointed to a departmental “academic boycott” of pro-Israel sentiments, a claim the University since denied. Lippold, whose faculty profile indicates that he is currently on leave, serves as an associate professor in the Department of American Culture at the University of Michigan.

On Monday, Club Z, an organization whose mission is to empower students that are committed to the Zionist movement, posted a screenshot of the email exchange between Cheney-Lippold and junior Abigail Ingber to their Facebook page.

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In response to Ingber’s request, Cheney-Lippold wrote, “As you may know, many university departments have pledged an academic boycott against Israel in support of Palestinians living in Palestine. This boycott includes writing letters of recommendations for students to study there.” 

He then went on to rescind his original offer to write Ingber’s letter of recommendation.

Campus Reform reached out to Rick Fitzgerald, who currently serves as the Assistant Vice President for Public Affairs at the University of Michigan. On behalf of the University, Fitzgerald stated that “The University of Michigan has consistently opposed any boycott of Israeli institutions of higher education,” and that  “no academic department or any other unit at the University of Michigan has taken a position that departs from this long-held university position.” 

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Fitzgerald went on to say that it is “disappointing that a faculty member would allow their personal political beliefs to limit the support they are willing to otherwise provide for our students,” and that “we will engage our faculty colleagues in deep discussions to clarify how the expression of our shared values plays out in support of all students.”

Campus Reform reached out to Cheney-Lippold for comment but has not received a response. 

Abigail Ingber told the Michigan Daily that at this time, she is unable to give the media comments related to her exchanges with Cheney-Lippold, as she is waiting to speak with officials from the University of Michigan. 

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