Michelle Feldman/Sun File Photo

The Willard Straight Hall Memorial Room sits empty as S.A. events occur virtually.

April 11, 2021

Student Assembly Hears Proposed Resolution on University Ties to Saudi Arabia

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Last Thursday, Joseph Mullen ’24 gave a presentation to the Student Assembly calling for Cornell to cut ties with Saudi Arabia, citing human rights violations against its own citizens and the war in Yemen. 

Mullen, chair of the Cornell Progressives’ Anti-War Committee, hopes to introduce a resolution to the Student Assembly later this week that would encourage the University to terminate all Cornell partnerships with institutions in Saudi Arabia, disclose all grants and donations from Saudi Arabian institutions and the investment of such funds into organizations fighting for the Yemeni people. 

Mullen also called for the immediate end of Cornell Engineering’s corporate partnerships with arms manufacturers and barring these corporations from recruiting at Cornell. Companies with these partnerships include Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems. More broadly, Mullen wants Cornell to publicly condemn the war in Yemen and cease business with any company profiting from the war. 

Mullen alleged that Saudi Arabia has committed a variety of war atrocities, including bombing school buses and hospitals, blockading Yemen and exacerbating a famine that is starving civilians. 

In 2008, Cornell won a $25 million grant from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. In 2018, professors and faculty asked the University to disclose all donations from Saudi Arabia and end any partnerships with the regime, but according to Mullen, this request was never fulfilled. 

Because of the impact of the blockade and Saudi Arabia’s bombing of Yemeni medical facilities, Mullen considers the Saudi Arabian government fitting of divestment. 

”If a nation or a company is engaging in genocide, that should meet the qualification for divestment or disengagement,” Mullen said.

Mullen also criticized Cornell Engineering’s partnerships with corporations that sell weapons to the Saudi government. Specifically, he pointed to Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems, who partner with Cornell Engineering in graduate programs for current employees to get a masters degree. On top of that, Lockheed Martin donated $63,000 to Cornell Engineering for undergraduate student research projects, workshops, design teams and peer-mentor programming.

This proposed resolution continues the trend of the Student Assembly’s involvement in Cornell’s international affairs. Last week, the SA passed Resolution 39, which called on Cornell to uphold ethical guidelines when collaborating with international institutions, specifically with the Guanghua School of Management at Peking University in China.

Mullen’s resolution is intended to continue the Student Assembly’s goal of ensuring ethical collaboration with foreign governments. 

‘“We are at a critical point now because the Biden administration has announced that they will stop support for the Saudi coalition,” Mullen said. “In 2018 [Cornell] failed to take action. Now more than ever, we have to.”