University professors must base decisions, such as writing a letter of recommendation, "solely on educational and professional reasons," a Blue Ribbon Panel Report submitted to the University of Michigan on March 21 asserts.
The report was submitted in reaction to a decision by University of Michigan professor John Cheney-Lippold to withdraw his consent to write a student a letter of recommendation to attend a program because the student intended to study in Israel. the Detroit News reported. He was also warned not to use student’s requests to discuss his own political beliefs. It was noted he agreed to write two letters of recommendation allowing students to attend programs in Israel before gaining tenure.Cheney-Lippold is an internet and cultural studies scholar. When news of his decision came to light, he was denied a merit raise for one year and permission to take a sabbatical year for two years,
Some 85 religious and higher education groups signed a letter organized by the NGO AMCHA, which combats antisemtism in North American campuses, lauding the report – a press release reported on Wednesday.
Among the supporters were B’nai B'rith, National Council on Jewish Affairs and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
“The adoption of this core statement of principles…will make a significant and positive difference,” the letter stated.
The student who was denied the original letter, Abigail Ingber, was eventually accepted to a semester in Tel Aviv University, the Detroit News reported.
The news report also included a dissenting view by ecology and evolutionary Professor Deborah Goldberg in the report warned that the report presents an approach she finds “too rigid” and suggested that ”faculty…should have the right to refuse to promote student educational aspirations that go against their own ethical and moral commitments.”
As she sees it, this right should be held “as long as those commitments are based on well-reasoned judgments and are not discriminatory based on individual identity.”