US university cuts seats of students in Saudi endowment

Deal signed in 2016 and university promised to allocate 800 seats to students of Mohammed bin Salman's foundation

Umar Farooq   | 05.07.2019
US university cuts seats of students in Saudi endowment


Harvard University has ended an agreement with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's foundation to allocate seats for its summer school program, according to the university's newspaper. 

The agreement was signed back in 2016 between Harvard and Saudi Arabia, and the university promised to allocate 12.5%, or 800 seats, towards students of bin Salman's foundation, MiSK.

University spokesperson Jonathan Swain announced the decision to end the agreement on Wednesday in a press release, according to the school's newspaper, The Harvard Crimson.

Swain, however, did not give a reason for ending the agreement.

Several colleges and universities across the U.S. have come under scrutiny over their ties to the Saudi royal family in the wake of the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered last October at the hands of Saudi operatives in Istanbul.

After initially denying a role in the journalist's death, Saudi Arabia changed its story and blamed the killing on a botched rendition operation. The UN rapporteur on human rights and extrajudicial killings, Agnes Callamard, said that the state of Saudi Arabia is responsible for the death, and the CIA reportedly concluded with high confidence that bin Salman ordered the killing.

In February, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) issued a statement condemning the murder, but said it would not sever ties with Saudi Arabia.

However, the university said it would establish an advisory committee to review international engagement with other governments. This committee will review future partnerships and also look at ones that are up for renewal.

Last November, Harvard cancelled a lecture by Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal, saying it was due to the Khashoggi murder.

There are currently several endowed professorships across Harvard that are named after members of the Saudi royal family, including a few in the Islamic Studies division and at Harvard Law School.

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