Disciplined for Acting with Integrity

Wald, Alan

Publisher:  Against the Current
Date Written:  01/01/2019
Year Published:  2019  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX23464

The smear campaign against two profs at University of Michigan participating in BDS harks back to McCarthyist attempts to silence the left at that same institution.



At the start of the September 2018 term, two young instructors felt ethically compelled to take action in support of the pro-Palestinian BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement. John Cheney-Lippold, an Associate Professor of American Culture, and Lucy Peterson, a Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) in Political Science, declined to write letters of recommendation for two undergraduates who wanted to participate in study abroad programs in Israel.

In e-mail communications, Cheney-Lippold and Peterson clearly explained that this determination was not based on any attributes of the students themselves: Non-compliance in letter writing was owing to a human rights embargo against institutions of a state carrying out brutal discrimination.(2) The instructors were happy to assist the two students in other ways....

The two U-M students would be slightly inconvenienced in a manner hardly uncommon on a large campus where faculty bow out of recommendations for many reasons. In distinction to the friendly apologies offered by Cheney-Lippold and Peterson, too many faculty never even bother to acknowledge receiving a request for a letter!

Within days, however, sensationalized news reports appeared online and then sparked a global controversy in which Cheney-Lippold and Peterson were charged with anti-Semitism, the mistreatment of their undergraduates by denying them "academic freedom," and even abetting terrorism. Headlines include "BDS Bully: U-M Professor Discriminates Against Student Wanting to Study in Israel" and “University of Michigan Enabling Terrorist Sympathizers?
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