'Free speech and Palestinian advocacy groups have denounced the University of Michigan for reprimanding a professor who refused to write a letter of recommendation for a student looking to study in Israel.
John Cheney-Lippold, an associate professor of American culture, had agreed to write the letter, but later declined after finding the student was planning to study in Tel Aviv. The professor is engaged in an academic boycott of Israel amid its human rights abuses against Palestinians.
"I am very sorry, but I only scanned your first email a couple weeks ago and missed out on a key detail," Cheney-Lippold wrote the student, Abigail Ingber, in an email last month.
"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 recommendation for students planning to study there."
On Wednesday, the Detroit News reported that the university would not grant Cheney-Lippold his annual merit-based pay raise for this academic year and will freeze his sabbatical for the next two years.
The newspaper reported that the university also threatened to fire the professor if he behaves similarly in the future. Cheney-Lippold is tenured, meaning he cannot be sacked, absent of a major offence.
"Your conduct has fallen far short of the university’s and college’s expectations for how LSA (College of Literature, Science, and the Arts) faculty interact with and treat students. This letter is a strong warning that your behaviour in this circumstance was inappropriate and will not be tolerated," read a letter from the university to Cheney-Lippold, obtained by Detroit News.'
Read more: University of Michigan punishes professor for boycotting Israel
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