October 10, 2018 — New York
AJC welcomed the University of Michigan administration decision to bring disciplinary actions against John Cheney-Lippold, the tenured associate professor who refused to write a letter of recommendation for a student applying to study in Israel.
"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 needs,” wrote Elizabeth Cole, the interim dean of UM’s College of Literature, Science and the Arts, in the letter to Cheney-Lippold notifying him of the disciplinary actions.
“The University of Michigan has made it clear that educating students is its top priority, that it will not tolerate this type of inappropriate behavior that hinders a student’s education,” said Seffi Kogen, AJC’s Global Director of Young Leadership. “Professors are entitled to their personal political viewpoints, even radical viewpoints. But when those opinions get in the way of their job performance—and writing letters of recommendation for qualified students is a part of a professor's job—then their employers are entitled, indeed obligated, to take action to protect students from the kind of capriciousness that Professor Cheney-Lippold displayed.”
“The University of Michigan is undoubtedly one of the best schools for Jewish students,” continued Kogen. “I applaud the Jewish student leaders and their allies and supporters who helped navigate this situation to a positive conclusion.”
AJC’s affiliate in Detroit, the JCRC/AJC: A Partnership for Community Relations and Jewish Advocacy, led by David Kurzmann, has been deeply involved with the University of Michigan.