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update deskBoycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS)

Lawfare Project warns University of Michigan that it’s ‘subject to liability’

“U-M has a moral and legal responsibility to address discrimination on campus, and we hope it will take swift action to fulfill that obligation,” said board chairman of the Lawfare Project, a legal think tank.

The Michigan Union on the University of Michigan Campus. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
The Michigan Union on the University of Michigan Campus. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The Lawfare Project warned the University of Michigan on Tuesday that it is “subject to liability under federal anti-discrimination law, as well as other provisions of federal and state law following its unsatisfactory response to several major incidents of anti-Semitism on its campus.”

These include two pro-BDS instructors denying students letters of recommendation to study in Israel for a semester and a visiting lecture comparing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Adolf Hitler, in addition to demonizing Jews and Zionism.

“We are monitoring the situation at U-M very carefully, watching to see what the University Administration says and does moving forward,” said Lawrence Hill, board chairman of the Lawfare Project, a legal think tank. “There is no academic benefit from the use of images invoking the most hateful and conspiratorial anti-Semitic canards, and no free speech right to impose one’s own political agenda on students under one’s control and tutelage.”

“U-M has a moral and legal responsibility to address discrimination on campus, and we hope it will take swift action to fulfill that obligation,” added Hill.

On Sunday, the Lawfare Project delivered a memorandum to U-M administrators regarding the incidents. “This is neither an issue of free speech nor an issue of academic freedom,” it states. “A refusal by a state actor to write a letter of recommendation for Jewish students wishing to study in the Jewish state is not protected speech—it is unlawful conduct.”

“These principles are enshrined in American jurisprudence: one cannot refuse services to an individual based on that person’s membership in a protected class, and then attempt to hide their bigotry behind the First Amendment,” the memorandum adds.

It mentions one of the instructors, John Cheney-Lippold, oversaw a debate on the “merits” of BDS that “resulted in Jewish students becoming so uncomfortable in class that they felt forced to drop the course.”

“This is akin to requiring African-American students wishing to study American Culture on a public university campus to participate in a debate on the ‘merits’ of Jim Crow laws, segregation, and ‘separate but equal,’ ” states the memorandum. “We know that such a despicably racist conversation would never be tolerated.”

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