EWU a top recipient of Saudi funding among US colleges

Faculty member calls for a discussion about whether EWU should be accepting money from Saudi Arabia in light of Khashoggi murder


Courtesy Evan Vucci for the Associated Press

Saudi Arabia’s Crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman shaking hands with President Trump. The Trump administration is facing pressure to cut ties with the Saudi government following the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

By Dylan Harris, News Editor

EWU ranks sixth in the nation for receiving funds from the Saudi Arabian government, according to a report from the Associated Press. The school has received about $13.1 million from 2011 to 2017.

This data, combined with the diplomatic and humanitarian conflicts involving Saudi Arabia, has left at least one EWU faculty member calling for a discussion regarding whether the university should continue accepting this money.

“[There] should be a discussion at least at Eastern, as [to] whether Eastern really wants to take this, what I refer to as blood money or tainted money,” chemistry professor Jeffrey Corkill said.

Some politicians have encouraged U.S. businesses and schools to cut ties with Saudi Arabia in response to the recent murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The CIA concluded in a report that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of Khashoggi.

Saudi Arabia has also received heavy criticism for its involvement in the Yemen war. The United Nations has referred to the war as “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”

“What concerns me is should Eastern really be turning a blind eye to where the money’s coming from in light of Yemen and civil rights and Khashoggi?” Corkill said.

President Mary Cullinan said in a statement to The Easterner that EWU hasn’t received any pressure to cut ties with Saudi Arabia.

“We value our international students, and we don’t discriminate on their country of origin,” Cullinan said. “Losing those students would be a financial loss, but also a cultural and academic loss for our campus.”

EWU recently won the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity award for being one of the top colleges of diversity. Shari Clarke, the vice president for the Office for Diversity and Inclusion, said Saudi Arabian students, just like students from other countries, help EWU maintain such a high level of diversity.

“It’s so important whenever you have a university campus that you have multiple perspectives,” Clarke said. “I think it’s just incredibly vital for all students to have interactions with one another, and that definitely includes global perspectives.”

While Corkill said he recognizes the importance of having a more multicultural campus, he said he thinks EWU wants to keep accepting Saudi-funded tuition because of the financial gain.

“It’s sort of like a way of balancing the budget,” Corkill said. “It’s probably great to assume they have this ability to get $10 million in these days of tight budgets.”

The $10 million Corkill mentioned refers to the $9.8 million that EWU receives on an annual basis, according to The Spokesman-Review.

Cullinan said that political or diplomatic conflicts should not impact whether EWU accepts students from certain countries, including Saudi Arabia.

“Universities should be above the fray, above political and diplomatic conflicts,” Cullinan said. “Those conflicts flare up regularly with countries around the world; they should not affect the education we offer to students.”

Whether EWU holds a discussion about this matter remains to be seen, but Cullinan said EWU will continue its commitment to welcoming and valuing all members of the university community.

“In this highly politicized global environment, I believe it is important for universities to welcome students from all over the world,” Cullinan said.