A close-minded Professor places politics above education at the University of Michigan

Megan Lafond, Staff Writer

Associate Professor John Cheney-Lippold at the University of Michigan recently refused to write a recommendation letter for a student, Abigail Ingber, applying to study abroad in Israel. Although the professor is entitled to his own opinion, the way he addressed the issue was disrespectful and illegitimate. He claimed that his reasoning behind rejecting to write the letter was that “many university departments have pledged an academic boycott against Israel in support of the Palestinians living in Palestine.” This was soon proven to be a false claim, as the University does not support placing political views into decisions that regard the support of students.

Rather than taking ownership of his own political views and ideals, Cheney-Lippold blamed his academic department and the University of Michigan as a whole. It is unclear if this excuse is true, or if he is merely using the department as a scapegoat for his refusal.

In my opinion, I don’t think it is ever within reason to refuse to support a student in their endeavors, based on one’s personal morals. We all have people in our lives whom we respect that have very different values than our own. It is frustrating that Ingber suddenly lost support from her professor solely due to where she wanted to study abroad. A professor’s job is to encourage students to think outside the box, to challenge accepted beliefs and to encourage open-mindedness, not to shut the door on her dream.

I also bring up this professor’s obligation to the school that he works for. It seems unethical for a professor to place his political beliefs onto a student, and view them as more important than her desire to study abroad and see more of the world. Additionally, he not only forced these beliefs onto her, but also claimed many departments shared this belief which was a lie. Every day, experiences like this could be happening to students who want to challenge their cultural norms by exploring others and are shamed for it.

Professors at institutions of higher education should never discourage students from deepening their understanding of the world, yet that is exactly what happened at the University of Michigan. Rather than encouraging Ingber to see firsthand how Israel’s legal system and government is run and independently question their motives, Cheney-Lippold wanted her to pass up this opportunity and view Israel as a country full of injustice and inequality; this view is very close-minded and intolerant. Since when are students told that one belief is the right belief in cultural differences? Professor Cheney-Lippold should be embarrassed in how he handled this situation, as his own political views prevented a student from an educational opportunity.

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