Links to Saudi Ara­bia face scru­tiny

Lo­cal col­leges, uni­ver­si­ties ad­dress sta­tus of spon­sor­ship, con­tracts.

The Times-Tribune - - LOCAL / NATION - BY ERIC MARK Staff Writer SARAH HOFIUS HALL, staff writer, con­trib­uted to this re­port. Con­tact the writer: emark@cit­i­ 570-821-2117

Some in­sti­tu­tions of higher ed­u­ca­tion are re­think­ing their re­la­tion­ship with Saudi Ara­bia and its gov­ern­ment fol­low­ing the mur­der of Saudi jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi, the As­so­ci­ated Press re­ported re­cently.

Khashoggi, a colum­nist for The Washington Post, dis­ap­peared af­ter en­ter­ing the Saudi Con­sulate in Is­tan­bul, Turkey, on Oct. 2. The Saudi gov­ern­ment weeks later ad­mit­ted Khashoggi is dead.

The As­so­ci­ated Press an­a­lyzed fed­eral data and found that at least $354 mil­lion from the Saudi gov­ern­ment or in­sti­tu­tions it con­trols has flowed to more than 30 Amer­i­can schools since 2011.

Lo­cally, Wilkes Univer­sity has 73 Saudi Ara­bian stu­dents, the sec­ond-largest con­tin­gent of for­eign stu­dents next to the 85 stu­dents from Kuwait, said Gabrielle D’am­ico, the school’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

The Saudi stu­dents “are an im­por­tant part of our com­mu­nity and con­trib­ute greatly to the cul­ture of cam­pus at the un­der­grad­u­ate and grad­u­ate lev­els,” D’am­ico said, in a state­ment.

The ed­u­ca­tion of those stu­dents is typ­i­cally sup­ported by the Saudi Ara­bian gov­ern­ment and Wilkes has no plans to end that spon­sor­ship ar­range­ment “since it would neg­a­tively im­pact qual­i­fied stu­dents seek­ing an ed­u­ca­tion in the United States,” D’am­ico said.

Wilkes does not have any gov­ern­ment con­tracts with Saudi Ara­bia, and the univer­sity’s re­la­tion­ship with the Saudis is lim­ited to be­ing among the schools on the ap­proved schol­ar­ship list for the Saudi Ara­bian Cul­tural Mis­sion, she said.

Ac­cord­ing to its web­site, the Saudi Ara­bian Cul­tural Mis­sion is part of the Saudi Em­bassy in Washington, D.C. It was cre­ated “to meet the ed­u­ca­tional and cul­tural needs of Saudis study­ing in the United States,” the web­site states.

The Univer­sity of Scran­ton has 18 stu­dents from Saudi Ara­bia. Some at­tend the univer­sity through Saudi gov­ern­ment schol­ar­ships, and oth­ers are funded by pri­vate Saudi com­pa­nies, said Gerry Za­boski, vice provost for en­roll­ment man­age­ment and ex­ter­nal af­fairs. The univer­sity was un­able to pro­vide the amount of money it receives from the Saudi gov­ern­ment.

“The Univer­sity of Scran­ton pro­vides a trans­for­ma­tional Catholic and Je­suit ed­u­ca­tion to stu­dents lo­cally, na­tion­ally and in­ter­na­tion­ally. This in­cludes stu­dents from Saudi Ara­bia who re­ceive schol­ar­ships ad­min­is­tered through the Saudi Ara­bian Cul­tural Mis­sion. These stu­dents add much to the rich di­ver­sity of our cam­pus,” ac­cord­ing to a state­ment from the univer­sity.

A spokesman for Mis­eri­cor­dia Univer­sity said: “Mis­eri­cor­dia Univer­sity is open to en­roll­ment (of) stu­dents from around the world, in­clud­ing Saudi stu­dents. Each of our stu­dents is re­spon­si­ble for their per­sonal tu­ition bal­ance, and many use sources of out­side fund­ing to pay all or part of their ex­penses. Mis­eri­cor­dia Univer­sity has no di­rect fi­nan­cial re­la­tion­ship with the Saudi gov­ern­ment.”

A King’s Col­lege spokesman said King’s, as a re­search univer­sity, does not re­ceive any con­tracts or gifts from the Saudis.

Penn State Wilkes-barre did not re­turn a mes­sage seek­ing com­ment.

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