New York, NY, October 9, 2018 … ADL today called on the University of Michigan to adopt a formal policy ensuring students' academic pursuits are not stymied by the political views of their professors, following a second incident where a faculty member reneged on a commitment to provide a letter of recommendation for an undergraduate student applying for a study-abroad program in Israel.
Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO, issued the following statement:
The University of Michigan must take immediate steps to ensure that students are not denied an opportunity to participate in an accredited overseas program because of their professors’ political views.
We commend President Mark Schlissel and the university administration for their strong statements denouncing boycotts of Israel, but more needs to be done. Boycotts such as these, refusing to recommend a worthy student solely because she intended to study in Israel, have a chilling effect on Jewish and pro-Israel students on campus, who may feel isolated and vulnerable when authority figures or campus groups express hostility or shun them based on their views and associations.
The University of Michigan, and indeed all U.S. institutions of higher education, should ensure that students are able to pursue academic studies without having their studies thwarted by their professor’s political views.
We are strong supporters of academic freedom. Certainly everyone, including professors, has a right to openly express their views of the policies of the elected Israeli government. But this should not be at the expense of students seeking to broaden their academic experiences.
These professors indicated they had no problem writing recommendations for students who might study in any other country in the world. Singling out Israel alone among all the nations of the world as worthy of boycott, according to the State Department working definition, potentially crosses the line from criticism of Israel to anti-Semitism.
The boycott of Israeli academic institutions has been supported by a small number of U.S. academic associations, but it has been roundly condemned as contrary to academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas by the American Association of University Professors, the American Association of Universities, and scores of other academic institutions and associations. U-M is strongly on the record against such boycotts.