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University of Michigan Punished a Professor for Refusing to Write a Recommendation Letter for a Student Studying in Israel

Trying to compel this sort of speech violates the rights of professors.

UMichPhoebelb / Wikimedia CommonsJohn Cheney-Lippold, a tenured professor at the University of Michigan, was denied a raise and sabbatical privileges as punishment for refusing to write a letter of recommendation for a student to participate in study abroad. Cheney-Lippold had objected to the student's destination: Israel.

"Your behavior in this circumstance was inappropriate and will not be tolerated," wrote Interim Dean Elizabeth Cole in a letter to Cheney-Lippold, according to The Detroit News.

A second teacher at the university, Lucy Peterson, also declined to write a letter of recommendation for a student planning to study in Israel, according to Inside Higher Ed. It's not clear whether Peterson will face disciplinary action as well.

Peterson and Cheney-Lippold are participants in the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions (BDS) movement, a protest against Israel's mistreatment of Palestinians. Anti-discrimination law would prohibit a professor from refusing to write a letter of recommendation because of a student's ethnicity. But students who want to study in a particular country do not constitute a protected category, so the professors' actions are legal.

University of Michigan officials argue that adhering to BDS tactics is incompatible with professors' obligations to their students, Inside Higher Ed reports:

In a statement published in Michigan's University Record email this morning, Mark S. Schlissel, Michigan's president, and Martin A. Philbert, the provost, had strong words.

"Withholding letters of recommendation based on personal views does not meet our university's expectations for supporting the academic aspirations of our students. Conduct that violates this expectation and harms students will not be tolerated and will be addressed with serious consequences. Such actions interfere with our students' opportunities, violate their academic freedom and betray our university's educational mission," they wrote.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education's Robert Shibley thinks this is a "thorny" issue from a free speech perspective. He writes:

As always, FIRE takes no position on the main issues that underlie the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, FIRE has long been concerned about the effects that the effort to academically boycott institutions in Israel cannot help but have on academic freedom for students and faculty members right here in the United States.…

While the immediate negative effect on students denied recommendations is easy to see, this type of application of the boycott movement risks doing serious, though less obvious, damage to faculty freedom of speech, including the right not to speak. Faculty recommendation letters are, of course, a type of speech. (They are, after all, letters.) Whether or not to write them on behalf of a particular student is also traditionally, and necessarily, left to the discretion of the individual faculty member, as it would be entirely nonsensical to require faculty members to write recommendation letters for students they simply can't or don't recommend. Yes, writing such letters is an expected part of the job, but generally speaking, no student has a "right" to a recommendation letter.

I tend to think academic freedom means that professors should be able to write and say what they think, even if what they think is offensive to some students. A letter of recommendation is a kind of speech: an endorsement of the student for whom it is written. If a university is obligating professors to write these letters against their will, they are essentially forcing the professors to engage in compelled speech.

It's easy to see how this could cause problems. Would a pro-life professor have to write a letter of recommendation for a student taking a job at Planned Parenthood? Should a gay professor be forced to recommend a student seeking a transfer to a conservative religious college? What if the professor's objections aren't political? Is it permissible to deny a letter to a student who wants to visit a particularly dangerous or unstable country?

It seems the best policy here is to leave these decisions in the hands of the faculty. I'm not a supporter of the BDS movement—I tend to think boycotts are hypocritical—but I would be hard-pressed to say that professors who object to Israel's policies should be forced to violate their consciences in order to keep their jobs. Anyone who has a problem with these professors' anti-Israel stances should feel free to criticize them, but disciplinary measures are unwarranted and a threat to the faculty's free speech rights.

Photo Credit: Phoebelb / Wikimedia Commons

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  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    This is an interesting case and one worth discussing. The compelled speech argument has come to the fore, usually in the realm of PC culture-- compelling people to refer to others with "preferred pronouns" etc.

    This is a good case that tests the boundaries and forces one to think about people who hold 'icky' positions, and their right to espouse those beliefs by refusing to participate in a certain activity.

    This intersects with transgender pronouns, baking cakes for gay people or refusal to participate in gay weddings. While I think it's pretty shitty to withhold a letter of recommendation simply because someone chose to go to Israel, I support the professor's right to withhold his labor and effort.

    "Withholding letters of recommendation based on personal views does not meet our university's expectations for supporting the academic aspirations of our students.

    However, does the University have a right to hold its faculty and staff to certain standards of behavior?a

    How will this backfire if tables are turned, etc?

    Good post, Rico.

  • PaulTheBeav||

    This isn't comparable at all to the transgender pronoun issue. Using the pronouns someone prefers isn't directly related to educating students, this is.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I'm not sure that's relevant. There's no "right" to a recommendation letter, any more than there's a right to have the corner bakery bake you a cake with your preferred message on it.

  • Echo Chamber||

    Student: I demand that you spend part of your day writing a letter to recommend me
    Prof: I recommend you go f*ck yourself, I'm busy.

  • gaoxiaen||

    Show me the letter. I'll correct the grammar and approve it.

  • gaoxiaen||

    Also the spelling.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Here, the professor bravely/stupidly admitted the reason for the refusal wasn't academic. Also, can the university require a professor to lecture to students during class as a function of continued employment in that position? Is that compelled speech.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Well put, Fist of Etiquette. Academic freedom is a job perk, not a fundamental right. At the end of the day, a professor gets paid for his words just like a cake baker who writes on a cake does. No one argues that the cake baker gets to send a bill to the guy he refuses to write on a cake for.

  • Get To Da Chippah||

    Also, can the university require a professor to lecture to students during class as a function of continued employment in that position?

    I would say no. The professor's job is to educate students in a particular subject. It's conceivably possible to do so without conducting a single lecture.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    What if a university judges that filling lecture halls to silently show students filmstrips and PowerPoint presentations is insufficient? Can administrators dictate the professor must engage with students? Does efficacy factor into the job requirements and can expected outcomes be compelled with specific instructions.

    That's what the university seems to be doing here. It had determined that the professor's actions have not met the job requirements of furthering this student's education.

  • BigT||

    If lecturing is in the prof's contract, then lectures can be compelled.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    The next question would I guess be if the content of the lecture can be mandated.

  • Sometimes a Great Notion||

    By the students, yes. If they pay for econ 101 and then prof starts teaching women's studies then thats fraud and the student should be able to get back the tuition plus damages for lost time.

  • NashTiger||

    slide shows are speech

  • Azathoth!!||

    This is the problem--

    Can administrators dictate the professor must engage with students?

    Can what do what?

    Let's throw away the jargon--

    Can employers specify the terms of employment to employees?

    That's what this shitbag is-- an employee. The guy working the fryer at Mickey Dees doesn't get to deny you fries 'cos you're getting on a plane to Tel Aviv.

    And the microbrain 'educating' students in Critical STEM Theory doesn't get to withhold progress letters because he doesn't like who you might give it to. Who you give it to is none of his business--all he should be concerned with is what kind of student you are.

  • MasterThief||

    I'm still trying to wrap my mind around how it is an issue that a person didn't want to write a letter of recommendation for a person to do a thing. His distaste for Israel could potentially be an issue tainting how he teaches (I can't be bothered to see what subject that is.) However, if he opposes the action being taken with his letter of recommendation then how can you impose on him to add his seal?
    On another note, I despise credentialism's effect of pushing networking over competency. The degree doesn't prove you know anything or can do much with that knowledge. A letter of recommendation only proves someone likes you enough to assert you'll do well.

  • earthandweather||

    A letter of recommendation speaks to the person's qualifications for a job that requires some specific qualifications...Not writing such a letter for someone you believe could well do the job because you don't like something about their potential employer is more than odd. I've written letters of recommendation for people without knowing to whom it would be presented. Taking back my recconendation if I disliked the organization to which they were applying would make no sense...Am I wrong?

  • IceTrey||

    So you'd write a letter for someone to become the Grand Wizard of the KKK?

  • MSimon||

    Only if they were qualified.

  • bevis the lumberjack||

    "There's no "right" to a recommendation letter, any more than there's a right to have the corner bakery bake you a cake with your preferred message on it."

    This is more analogous to the County Clerk in Kentucky - Kim Whatshername. Her job was to, among other things, issue marriage licenses. She wasn't willing to do what the job required, so she needs to be in another job.

    Professors are supposed to work for the benefit of the students. If he's not willing to do that, he needs to find another job. This isn't a free speech issue, he can say anything he wants regarding Israel. But if he's letting his own personal beliefs harm students, then he shouldn't be a professor.

  • IceTrey||

    A recommendation letter isn't the same as a state required license.

  • TuIpa||

    Kentucky is a shithole, but they don't force people to get married bruh.

  • IceTrey||

    But if people want to get married they are forced to get a license.

  • bevis the lumberjack||

    "A recommendation letter isn't the same as a state required license."

    Well, yeah, it is - to the extent that the person is expected to provide it to the benefit of a recipient.

    If the student was otherwise qualified to receive a letter (and there's no indication that this was not the case here) and the professor's objection was only as to where the student intended to go, then the professor was wrong. It's not "compulsory speech", it's "doing your fucking job".

  • IceTrey||

    A marriage license is paid for and doesn't require the personnel endorsement of the issuer. People are also forced to obtain one.

  • Mickey Rat||

    At the time that occurred, there was no duly passed policy requiring a county clerk to do anything. The law on marriage in the state was in ambivalence, and SCOTUS is not supposed to be able write state laws.

    The question here is does UM have a policy that letters of recommendation are not supposed to be refused due to the political opinions of the professor.

  • PaulTheBeav||

    Writing these recommendations is part of a Professor's job. The university wants to help their students get an education and getting into a good overseas program can be an important part of that. No one should be required to say anything they don't want to say, but if you take a job that requires you to say something in particular, then you either need to say it or you need to quit.

  • ||

    How about if the professor writes a letter saying "I don't recommend this person, because Israel sucks." If they owe a recommendation letter, is it required that the letter be positive in tone? If so, what's the point?

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Given that the program is in Israel and Israelis are aware of the BDSMovement against them, "I don't recommend this person, because Israel sucks," could get the student into the program. The letter shows that the student has the chutzpah to ask his professor for the recommendation despite the professor's anti-Zionist stance.

  • PaulTheBeav||

    The letter isn't to recommend Israel, it is to recommend the student. The professor has made it clear that his objection is to Israel, not the student. It is his job to say whether or not the student is good and worthy of inclusion in an overseas program. It is clear that he believes the student is, and yet he is refusing to write the letter.

  • wareagle||

    but should the professor be compelled to write such a letter? I think the two profs here are being boneheaded and projecting their political views onto this student, but they're not the only ones on campus.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Writing letters of recommendation is indeed part of a professor's job, but honoring all requests for a letter of recommendation is not. There are many reasons that a professor might decline to write a letter, from the student being unqualified or applying to a bad program to the professor being too busy or not familiar with the student's work.

    I don't understand what you would want to accomplish by stripping professors of their discretion about which letters to write.

  • Social Justice is neither||

    There are 2 questions here, is the student worth promoting with a recommendation and is the use of that recommendation something the professor wishes to promote, I'll leave off too busy as an out.

    If the reason for no recommendation is explicitly the second then the professor is punishing the student for not sharing the same politics or priorities and to me that deserves some sort of censure. Long term the reasons for recommendation requests need to be invisible to the professor beyond very vague outlines.

    But seriously, the only way somebody knows why a recommendation is not written is because the professor chose to tell them. Kinda like a baker declaring his undying hatred of gay marriage as a reason to not bake a wedding cake instead of just saying he's already scheduled that week.

  • Echo Chamber||

    This does smell a lot bit like the cake baking thing. Are there really no other professors (bakers) available on campus to write recommendation letters (bake cakes), or is the person requesting the service just looking to raise a stink?

  • Mickey Rat||

    Except professors are employees, the cake shop owners are self employed.

  • Hugh Akston||

    If the reason for no recommendation is explicitly the second then the professor is punishing the student for not sharing the same politics or priorities and to me that deserves some sort of censure.

    Does the professor deserve censure if he is declining to endorse/participate in an institution he doesn't agree with?

  • bevis the lumberjack||

    "Does the professor deserve censure if he is declining to endorse/participate in an institution he doesn't agree with?"

    Yes, he does. He's not endorsing the institution, he's endorsing the student. And he's not participating in the institution at all, he's merely extending a courtesy to the student that the student has apparently earned.

    If, say, a biology professor converted to a fundamental religion after they had achieved tenure and declined to teach evolution for that reason, should they be a biology professor? Is forcing that professor to teach evolution forced speech?

  • IceTrey||

    So a professor can be compelled to write a recommendation letter for someone wanting to join ISIS?

  • bevis the lumberjack||

    You're throwing out a lot of strawmen with your ISIS and KKK examples.

    This is a study abroad program. The programs themselves are pre-approved by the university, otherwise the credits wouldn't transfer back. ISIS and the KKK would (presumably) not be pre-approved by the university. So you're not just comparing apples and oranges, you're comparing apples and refrigerators.

    If a university is going to advertise to prospective students the opportunity to study abroad, but then deny them to the students based on the professors' political beliefs, has the university done a bait and switch? Have they committed fraud?

    If the professor is not prepared to do his job, he needs to find a job that he's willing to do. Go teach at a university that doesn't have study abroad programs, or at least one that has none in Israel.

    And you didn't touch my question about

  • sharmota4zeb||

    ISIS isn't a country or a recognized ethnic group. Muslims are a protected class. Syrians are a protected class. Consider a professor who agrees to write a letter of recommendation for a student who wants to work at a food pantry and then retracts that offer when he learns that the food pantry is run by a Muslim non-profit or is located in Syria.

    Or what if a film professor agrees to write a letter of recommendation for a student who wants to work for a summer on a porn star's production team, only to retract the offer when he learns that the porn star is Antonio Suleiman because that movie Suleiman did with a European actor playing the part of a journalist "mixed the races".

  • Nardz||

    The professor isn't being compelled to write anything, but actions have consequences.
    Prof has every right to refuse to write a rec for a student to go to Israel, just as I or you have every write to say something that makes our employer look bad. If we do so, we likely face some form of punishment from our employer.
    That's the difference between this and the Baker- the Baker was not an employee, thus the entity punishing him was The State.
    I wasn't around at the time, but I'd guess Reason went to bat for Google's right to fire James Damore, no?

  • Nardz||

    *every right...
    Fn mornings

  • Red Tony||

    1) While writing letters of recommendation is part of professors' jobs, they are not required to recommend everybody. They have no obligation to recommend the drunk guy who whipped his dick out in class and ended up flunking–or, for that matter, the perfect student.

    2) This is an issue of compelled speech. Again, professors are supposed to write letters of recommendation; however, once again, they don't have to recommend everybody. There is nothing in their contracts stating that they have to write a letter of recommendation for everybody.

    3) The University of Michigan is under the purview the Michigan government. This means that, besides likely violating the teacher's contract, this is government-compelled speech.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Red Tony, in response to 1), please read my example involving the film professor.

  • Ben of Houston||

    The comparison of this to lecturing is a non-starter because that is a fundamental requirement of the job. In this case, the job is not to write recommendations, but to support students in their education. This includes not only writing recommendations for students when it is good, but discouraging them from actions that will be harmful to their long term education. Believing that the student would be harmed by association with Israel is a valid objection.

    It is a matter of academic freedom that the professor can refuse to recommend a student to any program for any reason. This is either because they do not recommend the student or they do not recommend the program. EVEN if it's for racist or otherwise wrong reasons, you get into very real problems if you try and mandate otherwise.

    With all that said, the idea that a professor would lose their position over such a small matter seems improbable. This may be the last in a long line of issues or an excuse veiling some more private matter.

  • AlmightyJB||

    UofM Professor who's a bully gets bullied.

  • Colossal Douchebag||

    Film at 11

  • Ordinary Person||

    Why would someone even seek a recommendation from someone who has issues with Israel's conduct?

  • ||

    That's a good point - it makes me think it's deliberate trolling. BDS people don't exactly tend to be secretive about their views.

  • A Thinking Mind||

    That's the key here, surely. This feels like the gay couple searching for a christian bakery that will refuse to bake their wedding cake so they open an lawsuit.

    Surely there's other professors you can find to write this. You have no write to compel the professor's speech.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    In some fields of study, it is difficult to find an American professor who isn't boycotting Israel.

  • Red Tony||

    Yesterday (or possibly Tuesday), I was asked where the "above-average" Robby Soave articles are. This is one of them.

  • Rockabilly||

    I'm trying to think of a conundrum for professor prog

    Say the student is gay. They really don't have to be gay to maybe make this work. And there is nothing wrong with being gay.

    Dear professor progressive

    As as gay student, it would really benefit me to study in Israel.

    Please make this gay dream come true by writing a letter of recommendation. Also, please mention I am gay.

    Your LBGTQ, etc... Student

    Rockabilly

  • sharmota4zeb||

    The progs call this "pink washing". There's a victimhood hierarchy that puts LBGTQ students in the back of the bus right in front of straight white Christian male students. According to prog dogma, a person of color is allowed to murder gays, even if the person of color has white skin, like this old man.

  • JeremyR||

    It's not a protest of "Israel's mistreatment of Palestinians" (otherwise there would be a large number of countries similarly treated), it's hatred against Jews.

  • IceTrey||

    So? The libertarian position is you're allowed to hate whomever you want. You just can't archate against them.

  • Echo Chamber||

    Is it also the libertarian position that you must be compelled to provide your labor to assist someone's right to hate a group that you don't hate? I think not.

  • Jerryskids||

    It's this libertarian's position that you allow everybody their own standards and beliefs and morals - but you make them hold them consistently. So here's a simple suggestion to resolve the issue - just ask this conscientious objector professor how he feels about making bakers write messages they don't agree with on cakes. If he's consistent he'll stand with the cake decorator and you honor his stand, but if he doesn't object to compelled speech for cake decorators, then fuck him, make him write the letter. You don't get to squawk about your free speech rights while denying others the same right. It's of a piece with my belief that people who insist offensive speech is violence should be punched in the mouth. Your speech offended me and that makes it violence so I'm merely defending myself from your assault by punching you in the mouth.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    It's of a piece with my belief that people who insist offensive speech is violence should be punched in the mouth. Your speech offended me and that makes it violence so I'm merely defending myself from your assault by punching you in the mouth.

    Well said.

  • IceTrey||

    How would you assist someone's right?

  • John C. Randolph||

    As a Libertarian, if I'm employing an instructor in a college, and part of their routine work is writing recommendations for students, and one of them decides not to do so because he wants to play along with a Hamasshole propaganda operation, I'll fire his Jew-hating ass and call him a goddamned Nazi while I'm at it.

    -jcr

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    As a libertarian, John C. Randolph seems to be a great authoritarian right-winger.

  • Jack Klompus Magic Ink||

    As a useless retarded douche who should be beaten mercilessly every waking moment of your life, you seem to be a useless retarded douche.

  • John C. Randolph||

    Fuck you too, sunshine. You can shove your own Judenhass up your ass.

    -jcr

  • ||

    it's hatred against Jews

    You're being simplistic. It's about the Holocaust. The modern state of Israel was created in the first place as a way for Europeans to assuage their guilt about how Jews in Europe had been treated over the previous few centuries, culminating in their treatment in Germany in the 1940s.

    That manifested for a long time in reflexive support for Israel among Western countries. Then some started to think "hey, wait a minute, maybe it's not really about Jews, but about ethnically-based state oppression, and maybe what's happening to the Palestinians now is like what happened to the Jews in Germany!"

    It's not, of course, because the two situations actually don't resemble one another.

    But in the West whether you support Israel unflinchingly or condemn it full-throatedly, culturally you're saying "I would have stood up against the Holocaust, and really I'm basically doing so right now."

    Since, as you say, very few in this country give two fucks about, say, the way China treats the Uighers.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    That's an interesting theory, but I am not convinced. Please also explain why Serbs live in Serbia.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    While you are at it, you can explain why gambling is legal on many Native American reservations but not in nearby towns.

  • DRM||

    The modern state of Israel was created in the first place as a way for Europeans to assuage their guilt about how Jews in Europe had been treated over the previous few centuries, culminating in their treatment in Germany in the 1940s.


    It was? And here I thought it was because the Arab population in Palestine had spent a whole generation getting into fights with the Jewish population in Palestine, like in the 1920 Battle of Tel Hai, 1920 Nebi Musa riots, 1921 Jaffa riots, 1929 Palestine riots, 1933 Palestine riots, 1936-1939 Arab Revolt, 1938 Tiberias pogrom, and the 1939 Irgun attacks, and now the British were leaving and wouldn't be around to control the conflict.

    In 1947 Jews were already a third of the local population (630,000 of 1,970,000); their conflict with the Arabs was in need of a solution of some sort. And partition on the basis of religion had already been implemented that very year as the attempted solution to conflict as the British left India.

    It's true that the Holocaust is why popular opinion tends to care about the Palestine question in a way that it doesn't about about the Kashmir question, but Israel was created for basically the same reason as Pakistan.

  • Zeb||

    Tell that to the Jews I know who take the same position.

    People aren't all that consistent.

  • John C. Randolph||

    There is a sizeable contingent of Jews who are anti-Israel because the Leftard Party Line requires them to be. I refer to them as suicidal idiots.

    -jcr

  • Hugo S. Cunningham||

    The professor should bounce the letter up to the department head, who would see to it that someone of equivalent rank would write a recommendation of equivalent value, If the department head is unwilling to do this, then he should pass the buck up to the university president, who would assume an equivalent responsibility. General-purpose "universities" (as distinct from sectarian "seminaries" or service academies) should not have the right to impose their politics on students.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Great analysis. Letter from university president:

    I don't know this student, but some people figure someone at this school needed to write a recommendation letter for this student and that buck stops with me.

    This student seems to lack a moral compass.

    Thank you for considering this recommendation letter with respect to this student.

  • wreckinball||

    As usual you suck

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    As always you suck the cock of right-wing belligerence, in this case immoral Israeli right-wing belligerence.

    Carry on, clinger. More slobbering, though. Bibi will love it.

  • Jack Klompus Magic Ink||

    Buy a gun and shoot yourself in the face.

  • Hugo S. Cunningham||

    I assume the department head or the president would delegate the job to a professor who knew and respected the student, most likely from another class. But as you say, a double-cross is always possible. The university could be required to send a notice to the Israeli institution that the student has run into BDS problems, alerting them to look out for a double cross and perhaps suggest an alternate way to evaluate his application.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I guess tenure ain't what it used to be.

  • earthandweather||

    Always a disappointment Robbie....and it's always the little things. I think it's what you seem to take for granted that causes your "reporting" to go nowhere. Check your premises and your balls.

  • Zeb||

    Some of his reporting has gone somewhere. His looking into the Rolling Stone gang rape article comes immediately to mind.

    And it should be "give your balls a tug, titfucker".

  • wreckinball||

    Yes compelled speech is bad.

    But the University has to have the students best interest in mind.

    If a professor is putting pitics above the student then I would say don't compel speech just fire the professor

  • IceTrey||

    A lot of professors are going to be fired.

  • Nardz||

    "A lot of professors are going to be fired."

    Feature, not bug

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ...I would say don't compel speech just fire the professor

    That would be how the university compels speech.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "Anti-discrimination law would prohibit a professor from refusing to write a letter of recommendation because of a student's ethnicity. But students who want to study in a particular country do not constitute a protected category, so the professors' actions are legal."

    Whether these actions are ethical is open to argument, I guess, but not the interpretation of the law? Thank goodness you're here to make these pronouncements for us, Robby. Otherwise, we might try thinking for ourselves.

    Actually, I'll try thinking for myself anyway.

    If anti-discrimination law violates some individual's freedom of conscience, that's a great reason to get rid of the law. It's not a great reason to pretend that the anti-discrimination law in question doesn't violate someone's freedom of conscience--if that's what you're doing.

    Is that what you're doing?

    Incidentally, violating someone's freedom of conscience with a law is inherently unethical (see "agency") even if it's done in an attempt to do something you think of as good, like fighting discrimination. If that isn't yet clear to you, you might want to read up some on libertarianism and ethics. Or maybe you should just stop pretending.

  • Zeb||

    It's not a great reason to pretend that the anti-discrimination law in question doesn't violate someone's freedom of conscience--if that's what you're doing.

    I don't see any comment on the law one way or the other.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "But students who want to study in a particular country do not constitute a protected category, so the professors' actions are legal."

  • Rich||

    students who want to study in a particular country do not constitute a protected category

    Yet.

  • DajjaI||

    Great to see Reason wade into the Israel minefield. So many controversial issues. The solution in Israel is the same as the US: equal rights and full freedom. Also here's another example of Israel using lawfare to crack down on BDS.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    But students who want to study in a particular country do not constitute a protected category, so the professors' actions are legal.

    New Jersey anti-discrimination law also prohibits discrimination against someone for being friends with a protected class and indirect forms of discrimination that have a disproportionately negative impact on a protected class. Israelis are an ethnicity. A categorical refusal to write recommendations for any program to study in Israel discriminates against friends of Israelis. It also creates a disproportionately negative impact on Jewish students and Israeli-American students.

    Would the logic of this post be acceptable if professors boycotted Mexico and refused to write letters of recommendation for anyone trying to study abroad in Mexico? You can argue that universities have the right to discriminate, but a professor is an employee of the university. He can face repercussions for independently establishing his own denial of service policies when interacting with students.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Would a pro-life professor have to write a letter of recommendation for a student taking a job at Planned Parenthood? Should a gay professor be forced to recommend a student seeking a transfer to a conservative religious college?

    A better analogy: Would a pro-life professor have to write a letter of recommendation for a student trying to study in Canada where abortion is legal despite his personal BDSMovement against Canada on account of its abortion laws? Would a gay professor be forced to recommend a student trying to study in Northern Ireland where same-sex couples can have civil unions but not marriages despite his personal BDSMovement against Northern Ireland?

  • sharmota4zeb||

    This Washington Post article gives more details. One student emailed a request for a recommendation. The teacher agreed to it and then withdrew the offer upon discovering that the program was in Israel. Entire academic unions have joined the BDSMovement, which means students majoring in certain fields might have trouble finding professors for recommendations who are not boycotting Israel.

  • Sevo||

    Thanks for the link; it was hard telling who was zoomin who.
    So the TI is a lefty refusing to write a letter as the place of study is Israel, and as a lefty woman who prefers women be kept in their place (oh, wait)...
    But even lefty idiots are to be protected from compelled speech, so she wins on that count. As a government-funded employee (to some degree), I'm not sure she could be allowed to withhold a letter as a condition of employment, but like the gay couple, who wants a cake from someone who doesn't want to bake one for you?
    Pretty sure Solomon's decision about the kid isn't required here: "Jake Secker is a 20-year-old junior from Great Neck, N.Y., majoring in economics and minoring in entrepreneurship."
    Hell, go to a professor who is not involved in SJW work, get your letter and include in your submittal that the *NAMED* lefty TI did what she did; return the favor.

  • Ecoli||

    Student: Hey prof, would you please write me a recommendation letter to help me get admitted to Howard University?

    Professor: Sorry, but I disapprove of Negros, especially educated ones.

    No problem, right?

  • MSimon||

    "I would totally recommend this student for study abroad. Except if he wants to study in Israel. He should reapply for the Gaza Strip. Or Saudi Arabia. Especially if he is gay."

  • LiborCon||

    I waited until I knew the professor's reason for the refusal before I formed an opinion about whether the school was justified in punishing him. I need to get all the facts, so I can I reach the conclusion that supports my biases.

  • crufus||

    Maybe the professor could write a letter where he praises the student for their outstanding work in support of the BDS movement.

  • MJBinAL||

    All of these comments are a load of silly noise. The professor should be disciplined and there are no free speech issues at all.

    The professor is an employee. His recommendation is on behalf of his employer. The speech is the University's speech, not his. In legal terms, the professor is an agent for the University when he carries hour his job responsibilities.

    The University says that part of his job is to evaluate students and to write recommendations for qualified students. The university took a position on the fitness and desirability of the educational program in Israel, so his refusal is essentially insubordination. If his moral standards are such that the is unwilling to do his job, he should resign. Then he can write recommendations (or not) as a private citizen rather than as an employee of the university.

  • Zeb||

    I think this is probably the right answer. Writing recommendations is not just a courtesy the professors can do for you. It's part of what you pay for with university tuition. The only good reason not to write one for a student is that the student doesn't deserve it for academic reasons.

  • Olga||

    The only reason I have heard of professors refusing to write a letter of recommendation is because they can't recommend the student. If the student is a bad student and you can't in good conscious recommend them for a job, graduate school or a study abroad program, then don't write the letter.

    Lets say the student is a good student. So this professor would write the letter of recommendation if the student wants to study in France, but not if the student wants to study in Israel? I can understand the Professor disagreeing with Israeli policies. However, that is a separate issue from would a semester abroad be enriching for the student? A lot of Jewish students go to Israel and study Hebrew and learn more about their history and culture and they get to see the Israeli/Palestinian up close and personal, which is also a learning experience.

    There is "freedom of speech" and the professor is free to write articles and boycott Israel all day long. However, refusing to write a letter for a study abroad program isn't about freedom of speech, but may limits the student's choices. Of course the professor is free to tell the student their feelings about Israel and say they would prefer it if they asked another professor. Writing these letters is part of the job.

  • Olga||

    The only reason I have heard of professors refusing to write a letter of recommendation is because they can't recommend the student. If the student is a bad student and you can't in good conscious recommend them for a job, graduate school or a study abroad program, then don't write the letter.

    Lets say the student is a good student. So this professor would write the letter of recommendation if the student wants to study in France, but not if the student wants to study in Israel? I can understand the Professor disagreeing with Israeli policies. However, that is a separate issue from would a semester abroad be enriching for the student? A lot of Jewish students go to Israel and study Hebrew and learn more about their history and culture and they get to see the Israeli/Palestinian up close and personal, which is also a learning experience.

    There is "freedom of speech" and the professor is free to write articles and boycott Israel all day long. However, refusing to write a letter for a study abroad program isn't about freedom of speech, but may limits the student's choices. Of course the professor is free to tell the student their feelings about Israel and say they would prefer it if they asked another professor. Writing these letters is part of the job.

  • Cy||

    The Professor has a right to his speech. He doesn't have a right to his job.

    The student paid for a service that should've included this recommendation, assuming he earned it. That the Professor specifically states that they will not fill it out because of their personal beliefs is violating the students contract with the university. It's up to the university to make that contract right.

    Professors writing letters of recommendation is part of their job. FULL STOP. If the Professor is unwilling to do his job on account of his personal beliefs, he should be fired.

    I think this is one of those shitty grey areas that shouldn't exist, where the government gives out stupid amounts of money to quasi-government organizations.

  • John C. Randolph||

    The Professor has a right to his speech. He doesn't have a right to his job.

    Bingo.

    -jcr

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Whenever I read comments like,
    "It's the professor's job to do X..."
    "It's the student's job to do X..."
    "It's the university's job to do X..."
    I just cringe a little, because it really isn't up to me or any of us to decide what their specific duties or obligations are. That is between the university, the student, and the professor. Whatever they freely agree to, is what their duties are, even if we outsiders looking in wouldn't choose that arrangement for ourselves. That has always been what I view to be a core part of libertarianism - humility in assessing the situations of others. It's their lives, their choices, and ultimately, not our business.

    Now I do think the professor is getting a raw deal here. I do think he is being punished essentially for his beliefs. But if his employment contract stipulates that it's his job to write recommendation letters to everyone who shows up at his door, then that is his obligation, even if we think it would be stupid, and he ought to be reprimanded for violating his employment contract. I suspect, however, that his employment contract is non-specific on this subject, and that this dispute is really about how to interpret vague language in his employment contract.

  • PatriciaCantu||

    So many letters! Guys you should already be taken to the best universities! But I remember how I was doing my letter! I use some good pieces of advice at the article http://www.bitrebels.com/lifes.....rse-paper/ about the education in general!

  • PatriciaCantu||

    So many letters! Guys you should already be taken to the best universities! But I remember how I was doing my letter! I use some good pieces of advice at the article http://www.bitrebels.com/lifes.....rse-paper/ about the education in general!

  • Mickey Rat||

    The professor is not being punished for violating a law. The professor is being punished for violating het terms of employment. The question here is did the University administration make clear that writing a letter of recommendation is not to be refused due to personal political disagreement with a program that is otherwise approved by the professor's employer.

  • Longtobefree||

    So can we just call this the university boycotting the professor's decision?

  • TwelveInchPianist||

    Meh. Writing recommendations is part of the professor's job. He can be disciplined for refusing to do his job.

  • Angiesmith||

    Writing letters of recommendation is indeed part of a professor's job, but honoring all requests for a letter of recommendation is not.

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