[Cross-posted from The Faculty Lounge]
In addition to denying a student's requested study-abroad reference for political reasons (as explained here), it appears that Prof. Cheney-Lippold also misused his position in class. Here is what Dean Elizabeth Cole said in the letter informing Cheney-Lippold of the school's disciplinary measures:
[Y]ou used class time in your course Amcult 3S8 on Tuesday, September 18, 2018 to discuss your political opinions. In your meeting with me on September 20, 20I8, you contended that you spent only 15 minutes of class time on these issues. But [names redacted] revealed that you dedicated all or nearly all of class time in Amcult 358 and Amadt I03 to discuss your reasons for not writing the recommendation, as well as your opinions on the boycott movement. Beyond issues of candor, you did not honor your responsibility to teach your students the material on your syllabus related to your field of expertise. . . . Although this material was discussed in only one session, an entire class period was a significant portion of your total contact hours with students over the semester.
This use of class time to discuss your personal opinions was a misuse of your role as a faculty member. The result was that at least [number redacted] students [dropped the course].
You can read the entire letter here. [Note: the bracketed phrase "dropped the course" was provided to me by a knowledgeable source; it is redacted in my copy of the letter itself.]
Cheney-Lippold's conduct, however, was actually worse than that. Here is how he described it himself in an interview with the Washington Post:
He also has been able to turn the dispute into a valuable teaching opportunity, he said. Cheney-Lippold, who is the author of “We Are Data: Algorithms and the Making of our Digital Selves,” is teaching two courses this semester, one on cultural studies “from origins to the Internet” and the other on “the politics of code.”
In both class meetings on Tuesday, he said, he opened the floor for questions and discussion. Some of his students were critical of him, he said. Others affirmed their support.
“A Jewish student, a student who identified himself as Jewish, said, ‘All of my friends were calling this professor an anti-Semite, and I told them he’s the furthest thing from an anti-Semite,’ ” Cheney-Lippold recounted.
An open class session, with the teacher in attendance, is inherently coercive. Cheney-Lippold therefore had no business seeking support, or even accepting it, from students to whom he will later assign grades. It is impressive that some students had the courage to criticize him, but there is no way to know how many felt pressure to express approval. And even if they were sincere, they were nonetheless pressed into making statements in front of their classmates.
What student wouldn't confirm to Cheney-Lippold that he is "the furthest thing from an anti-Semite"? Seeking and invoking that sort of endorsement -- during a class period, with other students present -- is the definition of exploitation.