MIT Faculty Newsletter  
Vol. XXX No. 4
March / April 2018
MIT Should Not Be Supporting
the Saud Monarchy
The Erosion of Social Norms Guiding
the Government-University Relationship
Improving the Urgent Care Experience
Through Student-Informed Care
Naming the MIT Intelligence Quest
Nuclear Weapons Education Project
MIT Students and Deep Learning:
Perspectives and Suggestions
MIT Day of Action
Higher Ed in the Era of #MeToo:
A Symposium for Faculty
and Graduate Students
Suicide and Sexual Harassment at MIT
MIT Research Expenditures 1940–2017
MIT Research Expenditures 1940–2017
Printable Version


MIT Should Not Be Supporting the Saud Monarchy


This Patriots’ Day marks 243 years since farmers, tradesmen, merchants, and sailors fought a bloody war to throw off the yoke of King George and the British monarchy. They established a republic in the place of the monarchy, and sought to make the government accountable to the people. In the years since, the people of most of the Earth’s nations have followed suit and rid their nations of monarchical governments. Among the absolute monarchies still in power, the most egregious is that of the Saud family of Saudi Arabia. We are appalled that the MIT administration agreed to meet and presumably negotiated programs with the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohamed Bin Salman (MBS). This was done without any consultation with faculty or student organizations.

Saudi Arabia, in fact, remains an oppressive absolute monarchy, and the source of great human suffering, most notably from their war on the people of Yemen. Bin Salman was on a U.S. tour, and earlier met with President Trump, who had approved the sale of $billions worth of U.S. missiles and warplanes to the Saudi government. The weapons are among those used in the Saudi-led war on Yemen that has left thousands of civilians dead since 2015. The United States is also assisting the Saudi monarchy in the coalition’s targeting selection for aerial bombings and actively providing midair refueling for Saudi and United Arab Emirates jets that conduct indiscriminate airstrikes – the leading cause of civilian casualties. Meanwhile, the Saudi coalition is starving millions of Yemenis as a grotesque tactic of war. According to the UN, the blockade of Yemeni ports by the Saudi military has resulted in “the largest famine the world has seen in decades,” causing a massive cholera epidemic and leaving 400,000 children malnourished.

Bin Salman’s extensive public relations campaign directed at Americans has painted him as a “reformer” who is supporting, for example, the rights of women to drive, while ignoring the continuing general oppression of women in Saudi Arabia, imprisoning hundreds without trial, and actively opposing democratic movements in other Arab states.

Cambridge City Councilor and MIT alumnus Quinton Zondervan, speaking at the demonstration against Bin Salman’s visit, stated clearly “We do not need to show respect to an oppressor and a bully and a warmonger.” U.S. Congressmen Rho Khanna, Marc Pocan, and Walter Jones (New York Times, October 10, 2017) have criticized our government for “participating in a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in a brutal military campaign in Yemen.”

On April 2 the Cambridge City Council went on record in opposition to the oppressive policies of MBS and Saudi Arabia, stated its disappointment at the manner in which the visit was hidden by Harvard and MIT, and requested that copies of the resolution be delivered to the Presidents of both MIT and Harvard as well as MBS.

The Tech reported on the meeting in their April 5 issue, and published a cogent and critical editorial.

Due to the complete lack of candor of the MIT administration, we don’t know the precise nature of the business between the Crown Prince and MIT. According to Grif Peterson and Yarden Katz, of Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, writing in the Guardian (Friday, March 30, 2018) “. . . Bin Salman’s foundation, MiSK, was accepted as a ‘member company’ to MIT’s Media Lab in 2017, which requires a minimum annual contribution of $250,000 (with a three-year commitment) to the lab. In return, MiSK receives access to the lab’s personnel, technology, and intellectual property.” Regardless of the content, MIT should not be entering into an agreement with representatives of the Saudi regime. This recalls the Shah of Irans’s effort to secure nuclear engineering graduate slots for the Shah’s chosen candidates. This was eventually rejected due to opposition from the faculty.

At a minimum, President Reif should have reported to the faculty on the visit of Bin Salman. He now needs to ensure that MIT has not entered into any further agreements with the Saudi government or Royal Family that ignore their record of oppression, discrimination, and human rights violations.

Editorial Subcommittee

Manduhai Buyandelger
Christopher Cummins
Jonathan King
Ruth Perry
Nasser Rabbat

Back to top
Send your comments