President Mark Schlissel said Thursday that a faculty member’s refusal to provide a previously promised letter of recommendation for a student because she was seeking to study abroad in Israel is not the position of the university.
Speaking at Thursday’s Board of Regents meeting, Schlissel reiterated the university strongly opposes a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.
“The academic aspirations of our students — and their academic freedom — are fundamental to the University of Michigan, and our teaching and research missions,” Schlissel said. “We are committed as an institution to support our students’ academic growth.”
Schlissel said the faculty member’s view does not reflect the position of the university nor any department or unit on campus.
“We are a large and diverse public university, and the individual opinions of our community range widely on many issues,” Schlissel said. “But personal views and politics should never interfere with our support of students. It is counter to our values and expectations as an institution.”
Schlissel said he, along with the Board of Regents and the university’s executive officers have been deeply engaged in the matter, and will take appropriate steps to address the issue and the broader questions it has raised.
Regent Denise Ilitch said focusing on the best interests of students is paramount.
“This type of profoundly exclusionary conduct by a University of Michigan professor flies completely against our mission,” Ilitch said. “Let’s call this what it really is: anti-Semitic.
“It impairs and interferes with our student’s ability to reach her educational aspirations and further, this professor was the beneficiary of recommendations during his ascent to a tenured position at our university.
“Imagine replacing the phrase that was used in this letter — academic boycott against Israel and students planning to study there — with your ethnicity, your race or your gender, just to name a few.
“This is not who the University of Michigan is.”