MIT Protests Escalate Over Saudi-financed Blackstone Group Funds

MIT, Saudi Arabia group funds

This post was last updated on February 21st, 2019 at 06:41 am

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has been trapped in an inter-divisional dispute from past few months. MIT administration and students have been discordant over the college ethics and its operational activities, particularly since the murder of a Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, by a 15-member hit squad of Saudi Arabia associated to their Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

According to the Associated Press, the existing clashes within the organization have just soared with time, where 18 students, alumni and faculty members called for the administration to cancel celebrations that are to be held on February 28 for a new MIT computing center. In a university publication, The Tech, the signatories published an opinion piece raising concerns over the foundation of the Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing, and the feature speakers invited to its opening ceremony.

Opening next week, the college is named after the CEO of the Blackstone Group private equity firm, who provided $350 million to MIT. The group highlighted that the Blackstone CEO hosted Crown Prince MbS last spring, calling him “a war criminal in charge of a repressive monarchy”. They are also refraining the celebrations citing Schwarzman’s work as an adviser to President Donald Trump and his opposition to an affordable housing bill in California.

Sparks of disagreements came for the first time, when the Saudi Crown Prince paid a visit to the MIT campus and Harvard University in March 2018, under secrecy and rigid security. According to media reports, the MIT community had to pass through metal detectors to enter their own building, but they weren’t informed why. It later induced a debate about MIT’s transparency, and its willingness to accept money and relationships with war criminals.

The protests picked up pace after October 2, 2018, when Khashoggi was tortured, killed and dismembered on the orders of MbS. Following which, MIT became one of the many colleges under a dilemma of continuing or cutting its ties with the Kingdom, as it published a detailed report called the “Lester Report”. Students raised questions on university’s several substantial financial ties to the Saudi government. However, the administration continued accepting Saudi funds and neglected the plea of MIT students.

One of the well-established universities of the United States, MIT seems to be on a trail of deteriorating its own ethical values by continuing its ties with a country that holds an extensive record of human rights violations. Other than jailing and silencing the activists and journalists, Saudi Arabia and its coalition also caused deaths of millions of Yemenis by conducting airstrikes on their schools, hospitals and mosques. Several civilians in the war-torn country are still suffering from diseases and starvation, without any aid.

While the MIT administration is majorly concerned about the maintenance of its Saudi-funded programs and researches, most of its students and professors argue that ideologies that the Kingdom follows are against the morality grounds of the institute.


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