MIT to conduct reassessment of engagements with Saudi Arabia

Review initiated in light of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s death

MIT is conducting a reassessment of its Institute-level engagements with Saudi Arabia following the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Associate Provost Richard Lester PhD ’80, who advises the administration on international activities, is leading the process.

Khashoggi’s fate is of “grave concern to all of us,” Lester wrote in a letter sent to MIT faculty Oct. 15 and published by MIT News Oct. 22. Officials in Turkey and other countries are alleging that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman authorized the assassination.

Lester declined to comment on the details of the review until its completion, which he estimated will come in about a month.

Individual faculty members were also encouraged to “make their own determinations as to the best path forward” regarding their current or future engagements with Saudi Arabia, Lester’s letter to the faculty added.

Mohammed bin Salman visited MIT in March in conjunction with the second annual Innovation to Impact forum, which was held between MIT and several Saudi Arabian entities.

“Saudi Arabia and MIT have a longstanding collaborative relationship focused on subjects of mutual interest,” Kimberly Allen, director of media relations and deputy director of MIT News, wrote in an email to The Tech at the time.

This includes “creating opportunities for post-doctoral Saudi women scientists and engineers to study at MIT” and “supporting the development of sustainable energy,” Allen continued. “Saudi Aramco is a founding member of the MIT Energy Initiative.”

Mohammed bin Salman’s visit sparked protests at MIT, with students demonstrating outside Lobby 7 the day prior to his arrival. “No Saudi War Criminal at MIT,” their signs read.