Babson College, which recently helped launch a Saudi college named for the crown prince, has become the latest institution to announce that it is reexamining its ties to the kingdom now that the prince has been accused of ordering the killing of a dissident journalist.
Kerry Healey, Babson’s president and a key player in the establishment of the Prince Mohammad Bin Salman College of Business and Entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia, wrote in a letter to faculty and staff this week that “we are greatly concerned about the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Turkey.”
“The Babson Global Board of Directors and the College’s Board of Trustees are deeply engaged in this important matter,” Healey wrote. “Both have been meeting with their memberships and the administration to thoughtfully assess information and input we have gathered as this matter continues to develop. These deliberations are ongoing and focused on ensuring the college’s activities and affiliations remain aligned with our core values and global educational objectives.”
Healey, a former lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, added that in the coming days, Babson, a private college in Wellesley with about 3,000 students, “will continue to closely monitor the situation and evaluate potential paths forward.”
The Prince Mohammad Bin Salman College, billed as the first Saudi institution to offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in entrepreneurship, was established in 2016 as a partnership between Babson Global, a wholly owned subsidiary of Babson College; Lockheed Martin, the American defense contractor with billions of dollars in Saudi contracts; Emaar, a Saudi real estate firm; and the MiSK Foundation, the crown prince’s philanthropic arm.
The college was designed to promote the crown prince’s agenda of increased economic growth, tourism, and social mobility in Saudi Arabia. Babson Global’s financial disclosure documents indicate that it expects to receive about $52.2 million over a 10-year period that began in 2014 as part of the partnership that formed Bin Salman College.
An August 2016 press release from the MiSK Foundation shows Healey posing with bin Salman in Washington at the signing of the official agreement that established the college, located in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia.
Healey, in a 2017 speech at the college, said determining whether to go forward with the project was the first of order of business she had to address when she became president in 2013. But once she met the Saudi partners involved, “I was sold that this was the right place to be,” she said, according to a video of her remarks.
“We’ve received great support from the government of Saudi Arabia,” Healey said. “We’re deeply grateful for that.”
Bin Salman College, she said, is “going to be the generator here, in Saudi Arabia, for job creators among the younger generation.”
Babson is not the only college to reassess its relationship to the Saudis following the death of Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor who Turkish officials say was tortured and dismembered inside the Saudi consulate on Oct. 2.
Harvard and MIT, which have each received more than $20 million in Saudi donations since 2005, have said they are also taking a closer look at their ties to the royal family.
Bin Salman visited Harvard and MIT during a secretive visit in March, at the start of a three-week tour of the United States designed to burnish his image as a reformer.
Harvard, in a statement that did not directly address the Saudi donations or Khashoggi’s death, said this week that it is “following recent events with concern” and “assessing potential implications for existing programs.”
MIT, which called Khashoggi’s death a matter of “grave concern,” said it is conducting “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.”Levenson can be reached at email@example.com.