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University of Michigan Disciplines Professor Over Israel Letter Rejection

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The University of Michigan professor who declined recommendation letter requests by two students wishing to study in Israel has drawn ire of the school.

The university has disciplined American Culture’s associate professor John Cheney-Lippold by making him ineligible for merit pay increase in the next academic year and froze his sabbatical eligibility for two years.

“I should have let you know earlier and for that I apologize,” Cheney-Lippold wrote to one student. “But for reasons of these politics, I must rescind my offer to write your letter.”

According to a letter written by the College of Literature, Sciences & Arts Interim Dean Elizabeth Cole, the criteria for giving recommendation shouldn’t be based on someone’s personal belief.

“In the future, a student’s merit should be your primary guide for determining how and whether to provide a letter of recommendation. You are not to use student requests for recommendations as a platform to discuss your personal political beliefs,” said Cole’s letter obtained by The Ann Arbor News through the Freedom of Information Act.

On Tuesday, University President Mark S. Schlissel issued a statement and expressed his displeasure at the behavior of the professor.

“Our view is that educators at a public university have an obligation to support students’ academic growth, and we expect anyone with instructional responsibilities to honor this fundamental university value. Our students deserve to be afforded all of the opportunities they have earned through their academic merit,” Schlissel said.

The university has also constituted a panel to examine the intersection between political thought and responsibility of faculty members to students.

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