Faculty Union Is Among Critics of Deal to Help Run Colleges in Saudi Arabia

A community-college district in California is drawing fire from several sides for its deal to help run two technical colleges in Saudi Arabia, the Los Angeles Times reports. The critics charge that, among other things, the Rancho Santiago Community College District violated a state open-meetings law in arranging the deal and, through its presence in the Middle Eastern nation, is tacitly supporting the anti-democratic policies of the Saudi government.

Last year the district won a $105-million contract to consult and help train faculty members at the two technical colleges. The deal has not yet been made final.

The district’s faculty union has complained that no public meeting was held to debate the deal, in violation of California’s open-meetings law. Recently the Anti-Defamation League protested that a partnership with Saudi Arabia could present ethical problems for the district, given that, for instance, Saudi Arabian schools are segregated by gender.

Raul Rodriguez, the district’s chancellor, told the Times that the district would still be in compliance with federal anti-discrimination laws. “It’s not an endorsement,” he said of the deal. “We’re in no way condoning the views and stance of the Saudi government.”

Saudi Arabia, pushing to modernize its economy, has in recent years established several similar international partnerships with colleges.

After years of competing with other college districts in Orange County for donor money, the Rancho Santiago Community College District thought it had struck upon a winning idea. Last year, the district was awarded an estimated $105-million contract to help run two technical schools in Saudi Arabia.

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