Monday, May 27, 2024
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US Colleges End Academic Ties With Russia Over Ukraine War


Several US colleges have decided to pull out of research partnerships, international exchange programs, and investments with Russia to condemn its invasion of Ukraine. 

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was among the first institutions to take action, announcing that its collaboration with the Russian Skolkovo Foundation and the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech) has ended. 

MIT President Leo Rafael Reif said that the school notified Skoltech of its decision to terminate the MIT Skoltech Program on Friday. 

The Boston Globe reported that the move will affect 21 MIT faculty members, as well as 38 students and postdoctoral researchers.

“This step is a rejection of the actions of the Russian government in Ukraine. We take it with deep regret because of our great respect for the Russian people and our profound appreciation for the contributions of the many extraordinary Russian colleagues we have worked with,” the school stated in a press release.

The collaboration has been scrutinized by foreign policy experts and federal government officials due to Skoltech’s connection to Russian President Vladimir Putin, possibly risking espionage and technology theft. 

Suspending Foreign Exchange Programs

Middlebury College has also suspended its School in Russia program to ensure that its students, who are already abroad, return safely. 

Program director Nana Tsikhelashvili remarked that Middlebury leadership decided it was the best course of action.

“Given the very limited availability of international flights out of Russia, and the U.S. Department of State’s authorization for family members and non-essential embassy staff to return to the US, we feel that it is time for students to leave the country,” wrote Tsikhelashvili.

The Council on International Educational Exchange, a nonprofit organization supporting various study abroad programs, also put a stop to its spring 2022 programs in St. Petersburg and is currently relocating students to universities in other Eastern European countries.

Cutting Financial Ties

State officials are encouraging public colleges and universities to cut financial ties with Russia. 

Gov. Eric Holcomb demanded the Indiana Commission for Higher Education review and report all Russia-related funding at state schools to his office.  

“We are looking for ways to show our support for the people of Ukraine and believe that cutting our investments is the right thing to do,” he said.

The University of Colorado is also withdrawing its investments in Russian companies while Ohio State University and the University of Arizona are revoking their purchase of delivery robots from Yandex, a Russia-based company.  

“Like so many others, we have watched in horror as this invasion has brought senseless violence and aggression to the region. We are looking for ways to show our support for the people of Ukraine and believe that cutting our investments is the right thing to do,” CU President Todd Saliman said.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has also directed California to divest its pension investments, amounting to $1.5 billion, in Russian assets.

Expelling Russian Students

However, not all proposed sanctions have been welcomed. 

Democratic representative Eric Swalwell suggested expelling Russian students from all US colleges and universities “if Putin doesn’t back off.” But the idea was met by a fierce backlash.

Matt Duss, a foreign policy adviser for Sen. Bernie Sanders, said that such a measure would punish innocent students who are not connected to the Russian government. Duss said that, most of all, the move would not help Ukrainians in any way.

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