University will not review Saudi partnerships following journalist's murder

Monday, November 5, 2018 - 9:25pm

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Emma Richter/Daily

The University of Michigan will not be terminating any of its partnerships or contracts with Saudi Arabia following the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, University spokeswoman Kim Broekhuizen said in an interview with MLive on Monday. Since 2013, contracts with and grants from Saudi Arabian sources –– including King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology and the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission –– have produced $5.3 million in revenue for the University.

Khashoggi, who was critical of the Saudi government, was allegedly killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on Oct. 2. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman denied any knowledge of the killing, claiming it was a “rogue operation,” though the Washington Post Editorial Board said it “cannot find a Middle East expert who believes the official story.” Bin Salman first garnered praised by Western allies for lifting a ban on women driving and other seemingly modernizing policies, but critics point to the scores of civilian casusalties in the Saudi proxy war in Yemen and sanctions on political dissidents under the prince’s direction.   

The money, Broekhuizen clarified, was not “donations from the Saudi government.”

“It is worth noting that these grants and contracts are for joint research efforts or to pay for training at U-M,” she said. 

All of the monetary awards from KACST and KAUST went to the University’s College of Engineering to be used for joint research initiatives, Broekhuizen said. The money from the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission is used to cover the costs of clinical training programs at the medical school for Saudi physicians.

An analysis by the Associated Press found the Saudi government had transferred at least $354 million to 37 American universities and colleges since 2011. Some schools, like the University of California-Berkeley, have also said they will not be reviewing or making changes to any of their arrangements with the Saudi government. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, however, said it would conduct a “swift, thorough reassessment” of its own partnerships with Saudi Arabia.