Few schools offer study abroad program possibilities as extensive as those of the University of Michigan, which includes programs in more than 130 foreign countries, from Argentina to Zambia. To participate, students must complete an application, attend a series of meetings, maintain a minimum grade average, and obtain a short recommendation from a faculty member. It seemed straightforward to an undergraduate named Abigail Ingber, who requested a reference this semester from professor John Cheney-Lippold after taking one of his classes in the Department of American Culture. Although Cheney-Lippold initially agreed to provide the letter, he changed his mind when he realized that Ingber intended to study at Israel’s Tel Aviv University.
Shortly after Jewish Voice for Peace got word of “a truly terrible case of the suppression of Palestinian scholarship,” the coordinator of its Academic Advisory Council fired off an urgent dispatch to scholars around the world. As a prominent organizational supporter of the BDS movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel, JVP sounded the alarm that “Pro-Israel advocacy groups” had torpedoed the search for the Edward Said Professorship of Middle East Studies at Fresno State University because all four finalists for the position had focused their research on Palestine. Something had to be done.
To all appearances, Michael Chikindas was a reasonably successful professor in the Department of Food Science at Rutgers University, but that was before the website Israellycool.com discovered that his Facebook page was plastered with anti-Semitic cartoons.