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MIT taking a look at its Saudi Arabia ties after Khashoggi death

(Charles Krupa/Associated Press)

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is taking a second look at its ties to Saudi Arabia, in the wake of the death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

In a letter to faculty sent last week, Richard Lester associate provost, said university president L. Rafael Reif had “asked me, in my role as associate provost for international activities, to conduct a swift, thorough reassessment of MIT’s Institute-level engagements with entities of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia so that we can determine a course of action for the Institute.”

He noted that MIT has “enjoyed highly productive educational and research collaborations with colleagues and partners in Saudi Arabia over many decades” and benefited from the presence of Saudi students, faculty, and staff on campus. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has been accused of playing a role in Khashoggi’s death, visited the institute in March.

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But Lester said the allegations about Khashoggi’s fate “are matters of grave concern to all of us.”

Khashoggi, a Saudi native, was a legal permanent resident of the United States. He wanted to become a US citizen, his fiancee has said. He worked as a columnist for the Post.

He disappeared when he visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, where he was going to pick up paperwork he needed to get married. Turkish officials, who are investigating, have said he was murdered and dismembered by a hit squad.

Saudi officials initially said the allegations were “baseless” and an “outrageous claim.” The kingdom later changed its story, claiming Saturday that the 59-year-old writer had died in a “fistfight,” a contention that drew international skepticism. On Sunday, a Saudi official said the killing was a “rogue operation” and a “tremendous mistake.”

Lester, the MIT provost, also told faculty, “As we consider how to respond to current events, individual faculty members who have or are considering engagements with Saudi Arabia will make their own determinations as to the best path forward.”

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But he told them, “If you have questions about your own situation, or if you have suggestions, comments or guidance that you would like to offer about MIT’s position, I hope you will let me know.”


Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.