University of Michigan Demands Nearly $900 for Anti-Israel Professor’s Emails | NTK Network University of Michigan Demands Nearly $900 for Anti-Israel Professor’s Emails

University of Michigan Demands Nearly $900 for Anti-Israel Professor’s Emails

The school claims that five days’ worth of emails will take 50 business days to sort through, and will lead to $890 in fees.

By NTK Staff | 10.04.2018 @1:00pm
University of Michigan Demands Nearly $900 for Anti-Israel Professor’s Emails

University of Michigan Professor John Cheney-Lippold rescinded a letter of recommendation last month because the student he had written it for wanted to study in Israel. The anti-Israeli decision garnered national attention.

In his letter to the student, Cheney-Lippold claimed that “many university departments have pledged an academic boycott against Israel in support of Palestinians living in Palestine.” He later clarified that he should have said “many professors” rather than departments.

Regardless of his reasoning, the decision is reverberating on campuses across the country.

NTK Network sought access to emails Cheney-Lippold sent and received around the time this news broke. As a professor at a public university, Cheney-Lippold’s email correspondence is subject to Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act, which stipulates the “disclosure of public records by public bodies within the state of Michigan.”

But public institutions have ways of stonewalling citizens’ right to know, and that’s exactly what’s happening in Cheney-Lippold’s case.

In response to NTK Network’s request for all emails received by Cheney-Lippold “regarding his refusal to write a student reference because he supports [boycott, divestment, sanctions against Israel].” NTK Network limited its records request to the dates September 17 – 21. By all accounts, this is narrow request.

The University of Michigan viewed it differently, as evident in their response letter, dated and received on Wednesday.

“Due to the amount of time estimated to search for, examine, copy, and review to separate exempt from nonexempt records within the scope of your request, production of responsive nonexempt records will result in unreasonably high costs for the University.”

The letter goes on to estimate an exorbitant cost to obtain the records: $890. The University also claimed that it would take them up to 50 business to days to review the five days’ worth of emails.

University of Michigan Resp… by on Scribd

What’s clear is that the University of Michigan knows its bound by law to turn over these documents but also knows the responsive documents could prove damaging to the school’s public image.

These tactics, to gouge citizens’ requests and delay responses as long as possible, are designed to discourage people from asking for information the law states they have a right to see.

The University of Michigan undoubtedly teaches its students about the public’s right to know, and how FOIA laws can help keep public entities responsible to the citizens that fund them. It’s a shame the school does not practice what it preaches.

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