Faculty Conduct with Regard to Studying Abroad in Israel: NYU-AAUP Letter to NYU President Andrew Hamilton

[view as PDF]

To: President Andrew Hamilton 

We, the officers of NYU’s AAUP chapter, are writing to comment on the news that  University of Michigan Professor John Cheney-Lippold has been censured and  punished by administrators for declining to write a letter of recommendation for a  student applying to a Study Abroad program in Israel. Lucy Peterson, a graduate  instructor in the same department, has also declined to write, and is now facing  disciplinary measures for following her own principled beliefs. The harassment of  these scholars of conscience by individuals and groups outside their university has  only just begun, but it will likely follow a well-established pattern of unrelenting  attacks on academics who publicly wish to distance themselves from complicity with  Israeli policies. 

The actions of Cheney-Lippold and Peterson, and the administration’s response to  them, raise several issues that are of grave concern to the AAUP, especially here at  NYU, which operates a prominent stand-alone program in Tel Aviv. 

First of all, we deplore the infringement of academic freedom rights on the part of  the University of Michigan administration, and we support the discretionary right  of faculty and instructors to exercise their own judgement, and conscience, when  asked by a student for a letter of recommendation. We are professionals, not service  providers, and we are guided by the ethics of the academic profession in our actions  and decisions. We would expect the administration to respect that right if NYU  faculty and instructors followed their conscience in a similar way. 

But we also seek to uphold the ethics of our own academic institution, especially its  bedrock principles of nondiscrimination and equal opportunity. For those reasons,  we are inclined to oppose the operation of university programs, like NYUTA, which  

are effectively inaccessible to portions of our student population, and which are in  apparent violation of these principles of nondiscrimination and equal opportunity. 

Recent amendments to Israel’s Law of Entry clearly state that members of groups,  including Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine, each with a  large presence on our campus, will be barred from entry because of their political  

opinions. In addition, students from Arab backgrounds and of Muslim heritage are  habitually barred because of their ethnicity and religious identity. While some  faculty and students have experienced difficulties in traveling to other NYU global  sites, no other GNU host country has adopted as state policy its intention to bar  entry on the basis on an individual’s opinions, ethnic identity, or affiliation with an  NYU student group.

Any branch of NYU that operates in the shadow of discrimination and racial  profiling tarnishes the name and reputation of this university. We call on the  administration to address this violation of institutional principle. In the meantime,  we will support the right of faculty and instructors to choose noncooperation with  the study abroad program in Tel Aviv in whatever form they believe to be ethically  justified. 

Marie Monaco, president, NYU-AAUP 

Jim Uleman, vice-president, NYU-AAUP 

Molly Nolan, secretary, NYU-AAUP 

Anna McCarthy, treasurer, NYU-AAUP 

Paula Chakravartty, at-large executive member, NYU-AAUP 

Rebecca Karl, at-large executive member, NYU-AAUP 

Vincent Renzi, at-large executive member, NYU-AAUP 

Andrew Ross, immediate past president, NYU-AAUP