Michigan professor rescinds offer to write student a letter of recommendation—after he discovers it was for study in Israel

This is the equivalent of deplatforming a speaker after he or she has been invited to speak. In fact, it’s worse, for it involves impeding a student’s career because of an associate professor’s ideological stand.  The professor is in cultural studies (of course), John Cheney-Lippold in the Department of American Culture at the University of Michigan. And the story is reported in both the Washington Post and the student paper, The Michigan Daily; click on the links below to read (h/t: Rodney).

Washington Post:

The Michigan Daily:

From the report in the Post:

The clashing visions turn on a reference letter, one of the most valuable currencies of the teacher-student relationship. At the University of Michigan, the letter of recommendation is now also a tool in the protest against Israel, as John Cheney-Lippold, a professor of cultural studies, this month rescinded his offer to write on behalf of his student’s semester abroad at Tel Aviv University. [JAC: The Michigan Daily identifies the student as “LSA junior Abigail Ingber”; “LSA” stands for “The College of Literature, Science, and the Arts”.]

His decision, first reported by the Michigan Daily campus newspaper, newly tests the line between opposition to Israel and hostility to Jews, while marking the latest chapter in the bitter debate about the movement known as BDS — Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. The movement seeks the end of Israeli occupation of “all Arab lands,” the full equality of Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel and the right of return for Palestinian refugees as stipulated in U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194.

. . . a query from a student arrived [in Cheney-Lippold’s box] in August. The student’s request was a standard one, made of professors around the world. After a back-and-forth, in which he asked for a clearer deadline from the student, identified by the Michigan Daily as a junior at Michigan’s College of Literature, Sciences and the Arts, Cheney-Lippold agreed to write on her behalf for a study-abroad program.

But when he received the form letter, Cheney-Lippold realized that he had missed a key detail. His student’s desired destination was Israel, whose academic institutions he has pledged to boycott as a way of protesting the state’s treatment of Palestinians. Cheney-Lippold is a member of the American Studies Association, whose members in 2013 voted by a ratio of more than 2 to 1 to endorse BDS.

Cheney then wrote the student this email response declining to recommend her (but offering to recommend her for other programs). Here’s his response, posted on the Facebook page of the University’s “Club Z”, a pro-Zionist organization that in turn obtained the email from another faculty member to whom Cheney-Lippold sent it:


Cheney-Lippold is a member of the American Studies Association, which has endorsed the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement, which is committed to ending Israeli occupation and, as is pretty clear, wants to eliminate Israel as a Jewish state (the founders’ statements were clear on this, it supports the “right of return,” and its supporters chant “Palestine will be free from the river to the sea”).  However, Cheney-Lippold’s statement that “many university departments have pledged an academic boycott against Israel” is simpy wrong: no department at the University of Michigan, nor the University itself, support the BDS movement.

Cheney-Lippold argues that refusing to write the letter is in fact an act of academic freedom in support of his beliefs:

He had been careful in wording his email, wanting to impress upon the student that his decision was not personal. He rewrote the message twice to perfect its tone. But the choice was otherwise a simple one. “It was about consistency,” he said. “If I believe in this, I have to exercise my will as a professor.”

“If a union asks me not to buy a grape from a certain producer, or not to cross a picket line, I would support that,” he said. “It’s the same thing here. Following requests from Palestinian and Jewish activists, I find the boycott against Israeli state institutions to be a very useful way to put pressure where I can as an academic.”

His support for the boycott — an international protest that has been criticized as inhibiting academic freedom and free expression — did not interfere improperly with his student’s plans, he noted. Nor has his involvement been inconsistent with his teaching duties, he said, but rather is protected by his academic freedom. “I can’t prevent a student from going to Israel,” Cheney-Lippold reasoned. “But everybody has the right to withhold something, and I chose to exercise that right based on what the movement needs from me as a solidarity activist.”

. . . The reason [his email to the student] touched a nerve, he suggested, is not just because of the vexed debate over the Israel-Palestine conflict but also because of a misunderstanding of free speech and a professor’s role. He argued that rising tuition means a college education is increasingly understood as an investment, and a letter of recommendation as something owed to a student as a consumer. “Michigan’s brand is being stained right now,” he said.

That is a crock.

While I support Cheney-Lippold’s right to belong to BDS and promulgate its views however he wishes as a private citizen, it is not kosher (forgive the pun) to enforce those views on students in a way that impedes their careers. It’s one thing if he didn’t feel that he could write a supportive letter for the student because of her performance, and in that case he could have told her. But he clearly didn’t feel that way, and thus agreed to write the letter. He also, after he rescinded that offer, said he was happy to write other letters, implying that he could write a supportive letter. Once he agreed to write, though, he was duty-bound to follow through, regardless of what he felt about Israel, because the student wanted to study there as a way to forward her career. It is Cheney-Lippold’s academic duty to write that letter, for it’s part of his job.

If a professor claims the right to not recommend students to study in countries whose policies he opposes, or for programs he opposes, that would lead to chaos. There are, for instance, professors who feel that America is an imperialistic and oppressive state. Should a professor claim that he can’t recommend students for programs in America? Some professors feel that American law enforcement is structurally racist. Should a student not deserve a recommendation for a career in law enforcement? You can imagine many other situations like these, and I can’t imagine any for which I would withhold recommendations. The only reasons I wouldn’t write a letter is if the student wasn’t a good fit for the job, unqualified, or not diligent, and in such cases I would invariably tell the student that I couldn’t write a supportive letter. (Many faculty, however, would just write a letter without telling the student how positive it would be. That’s a matter of taste, though students usually ask for letters only if they’re pretty sure they’ll be positive.)

The University of Michigan’s response has been pretty tepid; here are statements from both papers:

Cheney-Lippold said that he hasn’t met with the “upper echelons” at the university, but that his department chair has been supportive. [Post]

What the bloody hell? His department chair, Alexandra Minna-Stern, should give Cheney-Lippold a trip to the departmental woodshed. And this is from the Michigan Daily:

University Public Affairs released a statement regarding the incident, reaffirming the consistent opposition of boycotting Israeli institutions of higher education. The statement upholds no academic department or unit officially maintains a boycott.

“It is disappointing that a faculty member would allow their personal political beliefs to limit the support they are willing to otherwise provide for our students,” the statement read. “We will engage our faculty colleagues in deep discussions to clarify how the expression of our shared values plays out in support of all students.”

That’s about as tepid a statement they can make. “We will engage in deep discussions. . ” Another crock. The University of Michigan should clarify to its faculty that it is the duty of professors to write letters of recommendations for students whose tone is independent of the professor’s political, religious, or ideological beliefs, and it is up to the professor whether to tell the student that the professor can’t write a positive letter on academic grounds. I will be writing to Cheney-Lippold, to his chair, and to the President and the Regents of the University of Michigan expressing my displeasure with Cheney-Lippold’s stand.

As for the students, the reaction is mixed. The Jewish students of course object, with some feeling that Cheney-Lippold’s act is anti-Semitic. Grania also feels this is anti-Semitic. I won’t go quite that far, but I do think the BDS movement, whose implicit aim is to eliminate the country of Israel, is essentially anti-Semitic, and was organized by anti-Semites. But in this case that’s largely irrelevant.

One student clearly was anti-Semitic, however, as reported by The Michigan Daily:

LSA junior Sophee Langerman said she fully supports Cheney-Lippold’s decision as a boycott, divestment and sanctions activist, but reaffirmed the complexity of the issue and the diversity of opinion among students on campus.

“I believe that this professor is 100 percent correct in his refusal of writing a recommendation letter in support of the BDS movement,” she said. “A trip to Israeli-occupied Palestine would mean the support of the mass murder and oppression of not only Palestinians, but Ethiopian Jews, Mizrahi [Middle-Eastern] Jews, East-Asian immigrants and other non-white minority communities. BDS cannot support that. I would also like to point out that this professor was never under any obligation to write this student a letter of recommendation, and in fact, she got more than most students do by receiving a reply about why he would not participate.”

Even if this student isn’t a Jew-hater, she’s pretty much off the rails. First, note that she considers Israel to be “Israeli-occupied Palestine,” which means she thinks Israel shouldn’t exist.

Further, it is Israel who took in Ethiopian and Mizrahi Jews! And how a student’s study in Israel would lead to the “mass murder and oppression” of those groups, as well as of Palestinians, East Asian immigrants (to where?) and “non-white minority communities” is unclear. I think Langerman is just spouting nonsense here, throwing in every oppressed group she can think of to give some gravitas to her letter. But her claim that visiting Israel will lead to the mass murder of Israeli Jews from Ethiopia and the Middle East is clearly bogus and stupid. This is the result of the unthinking nonsense and propaganda that fills the head of many college students.




  1. GBJames
    Posted September 20, 2018 at 10:37 am | Permalink


  2. Posted September 20, 2018 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    “A trip to Israeli-occupied Palestine would mean the support of the mass murder and oppression of not only Palestinians, but Ethiopian Jews …”

    I’m trying to translate this. So, since Ethiopian Jews are black, and since Israelis count as “white”, therefore the Ethiopian Jews must be being “oppressed”, because whites always oppress blacks, everywhere and always — no actual evidence of that needed — and so visiting Israel amounts to support of whites oppressing blacks.

    • Posted September 20, 2018 at 11:02 am | Permalink

      … and does this mean that anyone visiting the US is therefore “supporting the mass murder and oppression” of American blacks?

      Maybe BDS should call for a mass boycott of the US, that’d be fun.

  3. Posted September 20, 2018 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    As usual, I agree with our host entirely on this one. Unfortunately, the wrongheaded policy is likely to continue: professors will simply decline applications on ideological grounds while purporting to do so on grounds of merit. No way to stop it that I can see.

  4. Posted September 20, 2018 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    If a purpose of a university education is to broaden one’s understanding of the world, not receiving part of that education in Israel will deprive the student of a valuable perspective. I am sympathetic to the BDS movement though I haven’t participated in it. But not learning as much as possible about Israel is just sticking one’s head in the sand. There are many other ways this professor could handle this matter while giving the student a recommendation letter.

  5. Malgorzata
    Posted September 20, 2018 at 11:01 am | Permalink


  6. mikeyc
    Posted September 20, 2018 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    “…it is the duty of professors to write letters of recommendations for students whose tone is independent of the professor’s political, religious, or ideological beliefs, and it is up to the professor whether to tell the student that the professor can’t write a positive letter on academic grounds.”

    This is it. It is part of their job responsibilities. I hope you give them both barrels.

    Still, I suspect nothing will change at Michigan and this professor will come out on top with his woke medals polished to a nice shine.

  7. KD33
    Posted September 20, 2018 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    That should be a firing offense.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted September 20, 2018 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      I agree. If the teacher cannot separate his political and personal views from his job, he should go. Who after all, does he think he is, a supreme court justice, a member of congress.

      • Posted September 20, 2018 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

        “If the teacher cannot separate his political and personal views from his job, he should go.”

        I agree. But if this criterion were applied, I fear we would be very short of faculty at our colleges and universities. I taught at Reed College, a hotbed of liberalism, and would have to say that roughly two-thirds of the professors there would have failed your test.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted September 20, 2018 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

          I believe that is a very bad thing. A school teacher is in this regard, the same as a judge or a representative/politician. For that matter a CEO of a company. Personal views, such as religion should be removed from the field. If I come before a judge in a matter I want him to address the law, not reach for his bible. If I am a student in a class on history, I expect the teacher to give me the history based on references and evidence, not his opinion based on his views. If he is giving me that, I don’t need it and I won’t learn anything.

          • yazikus
            Posted September 20, 2018 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

            I think college students ought to be exposed to a diversity of opinion, and think it unfair to ask their professors to keep theirs hidden. However, they ought to teach objectively, and if they do inject their opinion to make it clear that it is just that.

            I deal with this all the time with kiddo. We’ll listen to the news, he’ll ask questions, I tell him what I think and then tell him the other things that people might think about it. Then I remind him that my opinion is just that, and not everyone shares it.

            I do think we learn things by learning about people’s opinions.

            • Randall Schenck
              Posted September 20, 2018 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

              Have you ever heard of the saying – there is a time and place for everything. It does not go, anytime is a good time for my opinion.

              That is why I specify specific people in specific jobs when I was speaking. Certainly you can tell your kids whatever you want, give him or her all the opinions you can come up with. But that is not the professional way to go in the court room or in the class room. If you are a teach how do you structure your daily class. A half hour for teaching the course and a half hour of my opinion. Give the students a break and let them get their money’s worth in the class. If you want to give out your opinion, write a book and see if anyone buys it. I did not go to history class to get some teacher’s opinion of the civil war. Instead I went to actually learn about what happened and all the details to go with it. Give me all of that and let me make my own opinion.

              • yazikus
                Posted September 20, 2018 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

                That is why I specify specific people in specific jobs when I was speaking.

                Right – I don’t disagree with this. I think that college/university profs have more room to share opinion than, say, grade school teachers. Don’t students often select courses based on who is teaching, because they want to learn from that particular professor?

              • Ty Gardner
                Posted September 20, 2018 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

                Opinion simply comes out as you relate to students or when you interject humor into the course. Good professors will be unable to avoid occasionally speaking an opinion, they simply won’t let it influence the course material or spend much time on it. If students don’t see you as human, meaning you fail on occasion, you can’t serve as a relatable role model.
                On the other hand, this guy not writing a letter really grinds my gears. I’ve written many letters for religious schools that make me want to vomit, but the students earned them and its my responsibility. I’ve even written letters for students for holistic health programs when the students were qualified to do actual things with their lives that can really help people. As a professor you suck down your pride and write the f’ing letter just like people wrote them for you on your way to your career. The only requirement is that the student is able to succeed in the program they are applying to.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted September 20, 2018 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      Agreed, a professor should put the interests of his/her students -especially deserving students- first. If not he/she is not fit for the job.

    • Mark R.
      Posted September 20, 2018 at 11:58 am | Permalink


  8. DrBrydon
    Posted September 20, 2018 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    This is the worst example of virtue signaling, yet.

  9. Mark R.
    Posted September 20, 2018 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    What a disgrace! Unbelievable…this really pisses me off.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted September 20, 2018 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

      I agree. It’s absolutely outrageous. This professor has the right to hold any opinions he wants, but he does not have the right to force his students to comply with them.

      If this student deserves his support academically, as it appears she does,then she should get it. That should be the only criteria.

      This is no different to refusing to a white-supremacist refusing to write a letter of support/recommendation for a student of colour.

  10. Posted September 20, 2018 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if the student might have a legal claim since she is holding a letter from Cheney-Lippold stating that he is willing to write letters for her based on her merits, but that he won’t write this letter for his own political reasons thereby imposing harm on her.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted September 20, 2018 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

      I guess that this cabal is as good as a letter of recommendation for the institute where she was going to study. At least I should hope so.
      (But it is still unconscionable).

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted September 20, 2018 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

      I don’t see a legal violation here.

      • Posted September 20, 2018 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

        I mean a tortious act, not a criminal violation.

  11. Nicolaas Stempels
    Posted September 20, 2018 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    I find it unconscionable too.
    Moreover, “the mass murder and oppression of not only Palestinians, but Ethiopian Jews, Mizrahi [Middle-Eastern] Jews, East-Asian immigrants and other non-white minority communities” is neither here nor there. I have no words for it, so far from reality, not even wrong.
    The only mass murder of Palestinians I can think of occurred in 1982 by the Maronite Phalange militia, the Sabra and Shatila massacre (and possibly and in 1985-87 the ‘War of the Camps’, where the Shi’ite Amal militia and associates annihilated the Al-Mourabitoun and associates). All more than 30 years ago.
    It should be noted that the IDF/Tsahal was never directly involved.
    Note also that the Ethiopian Jews and Mizrahi went to Israel to escape oppression.

  12. Jon Gallant
    Posted September 20, 2018 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    Progressive professors should soon engage in a boycott of the settler state of Spain, where those alt-right Spaniards seized the entire country from its rightful Islamic rulers in the Reconquista. And, of course, of France, where the white-supremacist Franks exhibited Islamophobia at the battle of Tours in 732, and then went so far as to expel Islam from the Emirate of Narbonne in the SE corner of what became France.

    On the other hand, no matter how much they rail against the USA, our “anti-imperialist” activists will never actually boycott this country, for the simple reason of the very large American market. Once, a British BDSer was asked why she wasn’t boycotting the US. “That,” she replied with disarming honesty, “would not be convenient”.

    • Dave
      Posted September 20, 2018 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

      If white “anti-Zionists” based in North America are so agitated about the so-called “settler state” of Israel stealing Arab land, then to be consistent they should be prepared to hand over their assets and the keys to their house to the local Native American tribe, buy themselves a one-way ticket back to Europe, and depart. Otherwise it’s sheer hypocrisy on their part.

      • Posted October 20, 2018 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

        True! Though our good old Europe already has enough problematic immigration.

  13. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted September 20, 2018 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    Like other universities, the U of Michigan very much depends on financing from its state government, which in Michigan is signifantly Republican. I would worry about that right now since those people tend to get pretty irate about this sort of thing.

  14. Posted September 20, 2018 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  15. Steve Pollard
    Posted September 20, 2018 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    The whole BDS movement is monstrously hypocritical. It is right to be critical of many of the policies of the Israeli Government; but then it is right to be equally (or more) critical of those of other Governments. If you refuse to deal with Israel, why not (with much greater justification) refuse to deal with Iran, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia or Burma (to name but a few)? Utter humbug.

  16. John Crisp
    Posted September 20, 2018 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    Jerry and most of the people who have commented here seem to take the view that this is a simple and straightforward issue.

    Before I make my own substantive comment, I would like to say that I have a dual interest in the subject. I have lived and worked in Ethiopia for the last seven years and, concomitantly, have spent a certain amount of time in recent years in Israel buying machinery for my dairy joint venture in Ethiopia. So I know something about Ethiopia, about Ethiopians in Israel, and about Israel, from a very specific perspective. And I am not in the BDS movement.

    On the subject of Ethiopians in Israel (which is a fascinating subject in its own right), their integration into Israeli society was (and still is) certainly not easy. On the other hand, I challenge any small country to absorb a significant number of culturally, educationally and pigmentally different people without a certain degree of friction. I have met many young second-generation Ethiopian Israelis who come back here to visit, who still experience their blackness as an impediment in Israeli society, but certainly would not wish to return to Ethiopia to live.

    On the substantive issue, I am not an academic, so I don’t really know what an academic’s duty is in relation to providing references for his or her students. As somebody who has occasionally been asked to write references, I certainly take the view that you can never write a bad reference, in other words from the point that you agree to write a reference, it is implicitly assumed by both parties that it will be positive. I am also aware of all the uncomfortable new precedents being set in the US, in particular, over “religious freedom of conscience”, as applicable to cake making for gay people, etc. On the other hand, though slightly younger than Jerry, I spent my university years busily boycotting fruit, banks, and sports associated with South Africa.

    So I would like to know if people see this as a matter of absolute principle. Most of the people with whom I felt an affinity in the 1970s joined the BDS movement against South Africa. This was not complicated, because South Africa explicitly declared itself to be an apartheid state. Some people perceive Israel to be an implicitly apartheid state (on the grounds that they believe that citizens are treated differently according to their national/racial origins), though this is not part of the law of the state of Israel, as it was for South Africa. Regardless of whether they are correct in their belief, do you think that there is a difference between the form of BDS that was applied to South Africa, and its application to Israel today? In other words, as an academic in the 1970s, would one have been justified in refusing a reference to somebody who wanted to study in South Africa?

    • GBJames
      Posted September 20, 2018 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

      “In other words, as an academic in the 1970s, would one have been justified in refusing a reference to somebody who wanted to study in South Africa?”


    • mikeyc
      Posted September 20, 2018 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

      “Regardless of whether they are correct in their belief, do you think that there is a difference between the form of BDS that was applied to South Africa, and its application to Israel today?”

      Yes there is, primarily because there are no correlatives between Apartheid South Africa and Israel, apart from the fact that both are populated by human beings.

      I must say I suspect your motives for making the comparison.

    • Posted October 20, 2018 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

      I think that our attitudes to bad governments, and sanctions of them, should not extend to academic exchange. First, academics are not to blame for the policies of their government. Second, I think that exchange of information in the long run improves governments (and apparently many bad governments think the same, because they hinder this exchange).

      If a students asks from me a recommendation letter for a country that is not only bad but outright dangerous (e.g. Saudi Arabia or Egypt), I’d tell him what I think, but if he insists, I’d write the letter.

  17. Posted September 20, 2018 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    “If a union asks me not to buy a grape from a certain producer, or not to cross a picket line, I would support that. It’s the same thing here.” Cheney-Lippold said.

    This is a disturbingly mixed-up statement made by someone who should really know better. First of all, to conflate an ideological edict with a legally recognized enforcement of labour codes and rights is ridiculous. No respectable labour union is ever going to mandate that its members buy certain goods or not buy others. Just as unions may endorse certain political candidates or ideological stances, there is no expectation that members must follow suit. This is especially true of academic labour unions (not to be confused with student unions).

    This is not at all the same thing as expecting members to not cross a picket line. Unions exist to protect the labour rights of their members and ensure collectively bargained contracts are respected and followed. Strike action (and its threat) is one of the most effective, legally recognized mechanisms for this. Crossing a picket line as a member of a labour union is a direct violation of this mechanism, and a direct contradiction of the principle of solidarity inherent in legal labour codes. A union member is free to disagree with strike action and free to voice their disagreement (albeit with plenty of potential pushback). Ideology is not mandated; but respecting legal mechanisms for collective bargaining is.

    Mandating ideology is indefensible from an academic (or, more generally, a liberal) perspective. Mandating adherence to legally recognized mechanisms of collective bargaining has nothing to do with enforcing an ideology; it’s about respecting labour rights. I find it extremely troubling that a professor at any respectable institution would conflate these things, intentionally or otherwise.

  18. BJ
    Posted September 20, 2018 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    Utterly disgusting. I could write a whole post about how, yet again, professors are forcing the politics and ideologies onto students, but why bother?

    “The movement seeks…the full equality of Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel…”

    Excuse me?!? Hey, Washington Post, how about being objective instead of parroting what the BDS movement claims to be about? Palestinians and all others have full and equal rights in Israel. The only place between Israel and Palestine that doesn’t afford equal rights to other groups is Palestine.

  19. Historian
    Posted September 20, 2018 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    On the Academe site, there is a posting on this incident by John K. Wilson. He provides four reasons why he supports Cheney-Lippold’s actions. I think they’re all crap. The gist of the argument is that the refusal to write the letter is a blow against Israeli oppression of the Palestinians. Of course, Wilson doesn’t care that the career of a student may be derailed because she won’t have a necessary letter of recommendation. Nevertheless, this posting should be looked at to understand what the defense of Cheney-Lippold will be. Wilson is trying to get other academics to endorse his position.


  20. tubby
    Posted September 20, 2018 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    Ignore for a bit whether or not he’s right to regufe to write the letter on political grounds. He’s using the letter as a tool to manipulate his student into doing what he wants and using both the letter and the student as tools to further his political agenda. Not writing this letter is unlikely to do anything to Israel, but may hurt the student. It’s throwing the student under the bus so he can feel like he is taking a heroic stand against oppression. Is this even ethical?

  21. Posted September 20, 2018 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    He practices what he perceives to be what the Israeli does to the Palestinian.
    Withholding the rights, freedom of a student, to study where the student deems fit.
    You would think he could see this, write the letter with reservation while granting the student their right.
    He has joined the ranks of what he despises.

  22. Diane G
    Posted September 21, 2018 at 4:46 am | Permalink


  23. Peter Nonacs
    Posted September 21, 2018 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    As a hypothetical I would ask Jerry if he would write a supportive letter for a (well-qualitied) student, if that student were applying for funds from an organization he despises – e.g., Templeton.

  24. Posted October 20, 2018 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    My opinion differs from that of Prof. Coyne: I think that a professor is free to choose whether to give a letter of recommendation to anyone; and I wouldn’t give one to an applicant for Templeton.

    So what I find troubling in this incident is not that the refusal itself, but the fact that such a dense bigot is a university professor and does not even attempt to hide his bigotry but is instead proud of it.

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