Students, residents discuss Cheney-Lippold letter, carbon neutrality at Regents meeting

Thursday, October 18, 2018 - 9:15pm

University student Lydia Whitbeck speaks at the Regents meeting at University of Michigan-Flint Thursday.

University student Lydia Whitbeck speaks at the Regents meeting at University of Michigan-Flint Thursday. Buy this photo
Annie Klus/Daily

During the public comment segment of the University of Michigan October Board of Regents meeting, speakers addressed Prof. John Cheney-Lippold’s letter of recommendation refusal and the University’s plans to reduce carbon emissions.

Three of the speakers claimed Cheney-Lippold’s refusal to write a letter of recommendation for a student traveling to Israel was discrimination toward the student and explained how it represented a larger pattern of anti-Semitism on campus.

Last week, a letter from LSA interim dean Elizabeth Cole denied Cheney-Lippold a merit-based pay raise and postponed his sabbatical as a result of the refusal. The University warned Cheney-Lippold that further action on the issue could result in dismissal.

Irving Ginsberg, a Farmington Hills resident, said he felt the letter was an example of anti-Semitism on campus. He said he felt the University had failed to sufficiently punish Cheney-Lippold, and on-campus discrimination continued to occur because of the insufficient response.

“The administration and President Schlissel only acted (weakly) to Professor Lippold’s violation because of widespread national criticism, in contrast to the quick and decisive actions when other minority groups are so treated,” Ginsberg said. “With regard to Lippold’s behavior, only one regent called it what it was, ‘anti-Semitism’ … Not one other regent, nor President Schlissel, nor the administration did the same.”

Another speaker on the issue was West Bloomfield resident Ed Kohl, who said he disapproved of Cheney-Lippold’s actions, but was more appreciative of the stance taken by University President Mark Schlissel and the University. In his speech, he commended past efforts by the University to stamp out anti-Semitism, and said he knew the University would respond adequately on this occasion as well.

“Anti-Jewish bias has a long history in American universities,” Kohl said. “During that history, this University has been a beacon of enlightenment that has well-served Jews and the University itself … The latest outrage is supplied by recommendation-denying graduate instructor Lucy Peterson. Her job is not the pursuit of truth — she proclaims — but is what she called ‘social justice pedagogy.’ Social justice pedagogy is not education. It is blatant propaganda, ideology and indoctrination.”

The other major issues civilians spoke on was the University’s plan to become carbon neutral in the coming years. One of the speakers, LSA senior Lydia Whitbeck, spoke about how excited she was for the future potential for renewable energies on campus, and how fortunate she was to have the support of the University. However, she also said she felt it was important the University kept making progress and utilized ideas and proposals created by students.

“I am deeply passionate about the issue of climate change,” Whitbeck said. “I am excited about the prospect of using renewable energy to aid our energy usage. Even more so, I am excited about the prospect of U-M using renewable energy through student technologies here on campus.”

At last month’s meeting meeting, members of the University of Michigan Climate Action Movement spoke to the board about this goal of carbon neutrality. Schlissel announced the University’s new initiatives to reduce the institution’s carbon footprint last month as well, but did not provide a concrete deadline or goals for the cause. Engineer junior Logan Vear, a member of the Climate Action Movement, pushed back on the lack of specificity following the announcement.

“Within his comment, there was no explicit statement committing the University to carbon neutrality, but rather, commiting to ‘putting U-M on a trajectory towards carbon neutrality and levels of greenhouse gas release that are environmentally sustainable’ which does not clearly define what the exact scope of the reduction goal may be,” Vear wrote. “Additionally, he failed to present a deadline in which this ‘goal’ may be achieved. Therefore, although we are gratified to see progress towards this complex issue, we will continue to push for a concrete date as well as the establishment of intermediate goals to get there. We are excited to continue this conversation.”

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