November 28, 2018

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Cornell’s ties to Saudi Arabia need scrutiny

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To the editor:

The following letter was sent to Cornell President Martha Pollack on November 27, 2018:

Dear President Pollack:

We, the undersigned members of the Cornell community, urge you to examine Cornell’s ties with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. As the KSA’s human rights violations escalate, we cannot endorse any form of academic support and/or collaboration with the current regime. To do so is to support injustice and undermine the purpose and integrity of Cornell’s mission. We therefore urge you to discontinue Cornell’s institutional and financial collaboration with the KSA. We further ask that you disclose to the Cornell community all grants and gifts received from the KSA, in addition to programmatic collaboration such as academic exchanges.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is responsible for egregious human rights violations both within and outside the country. At present, the Kingdom’s armed intervention in Yemen is causing massive civilian casualties and a humanitarian crisis of untold proportions. Saudi actions have caused widespread suffering. As just one illustration, the United Nations estimates that 1.8 million Yemeni children under the age of five are acutely malnourished. Of these, 400,000 suffer from a life-threatening form of severe acute malnutrition. Approximately 14 million Yemenis are on the verge of famine.

Saudi Arabia has also escalated its crackdown on internal dissent. Over the last few years, it has detained peaceful protesters, assassinated opposition leaders and targeted journalists. Recently, as you are no doubt aware, Jamal Khashoggi was murdered by Saudi agents inside the Kingdom’s consulate in Turkey. Women continue to suffer discriminatory treatment that impairs their fundamental rights to travel, work and study, and to create and maintain a family. It is no exaggeration to say that Saudi Arabia is among the very worst regimes in its disregard for fundamental human rights.

Cornell’s Johnson College of Business is a major supporter of the KSA Global Business School in Jeddah, which features Cornell as one of two university “collaboration partners.” Cornell’s engagement with the Global Business School allows the KSA to profit from the status of Cornell faculty and to boost its reputation in the international community. We have serious concerns that this relationship papers over the KSA’s ongoing human rights violations. We note with equal concern that the KSA Global Business School lists among its clients the Royal Court of Saudi Arabia and the Saudi Ministry of Defense.

We appreciate your attention to this matter, and thank you for your time.

Zohra Ahmed, clinical teaching fellow, law
Prof. Michael Ashkin, art
Prof. Sandra Babcock, law
Prof. Richard Bensel, the Gary S. Davis Professor, government
Prof. John Blume, the Samuel F. Leibowitz Professor of Trial Techniques, law
Prof. Eric T. Cheyfitz, the Ernest I. White Professor of American Studies and Humane Letters, American studies and English
Prof. Angela B. Cornell, law
Prof. Ella Maria Diaz, Latina/o studies and English
Kaitlin Emmanuel, grad  
Prof. Matthew Evangelista, the President White Professor of History and Political Science
Darlene Evans, director of writing outreach, Knight Institute
August Faller, grad  
Prof. Jill Frank, government  
Prof. Eli Friedman, industrial and labor relations
Prof. María Cristina García, the Howard A. Newman Professor of American Studies
Prof. Durba Ghosh, history
Prof. Shannon Gleeson, industrial and labor relations
Prof. TJ Hinrichs, history
Prof. Rayna Kalas, English
Prof. Jonathan Kirshner, government  
Prof. Julilly Kohler-Hausmann, history  
Prof. Neema Kudva, City and Regional Planning, AAP
Prof. Risa L. Lieberwitz, labor and employment law
Jonathan Lohnes, grad
Delphine Lourtau, Executive Director, Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide
Prof. Beth Lyon, law
Prof. Jordan Calazan Manalastas, law
Prof. Joseph Margulies, law and government
Prof. Richard W. Miller, philosophy
Prof. Aziz Rana, law
Prof. Kenneth M. Roberts, the Richard J. Schwartz Professor of Government
Prof. Vilma Santiago-Irizarry, anthropology and Latina/o studies
Prof. Paul Lincoln Sawyer, English
Prof. Rebecca Slayton, science & technology studies  
Prof. Chantal Thomas, law
Prof. Helena Maria Viramontes, the Goldwin Smith Professor of English
Prof. Rachel Weil, history