The Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs approved a resolution Monday declaring faculty should let a student’s merit be the primary guide for determining how and when to provide letters of recommendation.
The resolution came out of SACUA’s discussion of a U-M faculty member’s recent refusal to provide a previously promised letter of recommendation for a student because she was seeking to study abroad in Israel.
The discussion took place in executive session.
President Mark Schlissel said last week that the faculty member’s view does not reflect the position of U-M nor any department or unit on campus, and he reiterated the university strongly opposes a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.
In SACUA’s statement on letters of reference, which was unanimously approved, SACUA affirmed its commitment to the American Association of University Professors’ Statement of Professional Ethics, noting the following section related to a professor’s educational responsibilities:
“As teachers, professors encourage the free pursuit of learning in their students,” the section reads. “They hold before them the best scholarly and ethical standards of their discipline. Professors demonstrate respect for students as individuals and adhere to their proper roles as intellectual guides and counselors. Professors make every reasonable effort to foster honest academic conduct and to ensure that their evaluations of students reflect each student’s true merit.
“They respect the confidential nature of the relationship between professor and student. They avoid any exploitation, harassment, or discriminatory treatment of students. They acknowledge significant academic or scholarly assistance from them. They protect their academic freedom.”
In their resolution, SACUA members said, “Within the guidelines set forth by the American Association of University Professors, and ‘demonstrate(ing) respect for students,’ faculty should let a student’s merit be the primary guide for determining how and whether to provide such a letter.”
SACUA is the nine-member executive arm of the university’s central faculty governance system, which also includes the Senate Assembly and the Faculty Senate.