Despite Khashoggi murder, MIT to accept Saudi funds

In the months since the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, United States non-profit institutions have faced a new permutation of a familiar dilemma: whether one cuts ties with entities who do not subscribe to one’s principles, or not. Last week, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found itself in the spotlight because it commissioned and published a detailed report about its ties to the Saudi government and its decision to maintain them, writes Erin Rubin for Nonprofit Quarterly.

Arguments for staying, contained in the so-called ‘Lester Report’, include the desire to maintain programmes and research that the Saudi government funds, and the notion that human rights progress can be better achieved through collaboration and inspiration, rather than by clobbering governments and institutions over the head with a moralising hammer. The arguments in favour of cutting ties include a reluctance to appear to sanction human rights violations or provide support for regimes that commit them. While universities are currently in the spotlight, museums faced a similar reckoning not too long ago.

MIT said it worried about its Saudi national students, its professors’ autonomy, and losing the leverage it wields through collaboration and reputation sharing. In his letter to the MIT community, university President L Rafael Reif cited a research collaboration he used as leverage to create scholarships for female Saudi PhD students at MIT.
Full report on the NPQ site