Defend Lucy Peterson & John Cheney-Lippold - Support Academic Freedom & Right to Boycott

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We, the undersigned, stand in support of Lucy Peterson’s prerogative to follow her conscience in refusing to write a recommendation for a student studying at an Israel academic institution.  We demand that the university where she is working as an instructor desist from sanctioning or harassing her in any way..

A graduate student instructor at the University of Michigan (UM), Lucy Peterson refused to write a letter of recommendation for a student to participate in a study abroad in Israel program. This refusal comes as part of the exercise of her own academic freedom and independent judgment as a university educator and as part of the Palestinian call for the academic boycott of Israel.

Disciplining faculty who refuse to write letters for admission to programs that have a documented record and set of policies that discriminate has the effect of completely bypassing the educational mission of the university, which we assume means equal access to education for all, a sentiment enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and turn professors into simply service providers.

Disciplining faculty who refuse to write letters also opens up the possibility that universities will be turned into pawns of ideologically-driven organizations who target professors critical of their views, and engage students to ask for letters they know the professors are, based on their principles, likely to decline to write.

We express our support of Lucy Peterson, and we are appalled to learn that the University of Michigan has pursued discipline against tenured professor John Cheney-Lippold. We call on the UM administration to ensure the following:

  • Lucy Peterson must not be subject to academic or professional sanctions or discipline for her act of conscience.
  • The discipline of John Cheney-Lippold for his refusal to write a letter of recommendation must be rescinded in full.
  • Faculty members’  academic freedom to refuse to write recommendation letters due to matters of conscience must be respected.


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