If you’re a public university in the United States that wants a new way to make money without those pesky requirements of Title IX and the Constitution, what can you do? Open an all-male engineering school in Saudi Arabia, like Cal Poly San Luis Obispo is hoping to do:
Over five years, Cal Poly would receive $5.9 million from the Saudi government to create an engineering curriculum, build labs and train teachers in Jubail, a sprawling oil center on the Persian Gulf. Only men would qualify to take or teach engineering classes, although the campus has classes in other disciplines for women.
Cal Poly officials said their venture would not yield a profit.
“We’ll make no money on this in any way, shape or form,” said William Durgin, Cal Poly’s provost and vice president for academic affairs. “What we’ll get is the opportunity to develop a new, innovative curriculum.”
Ultimately, the Saudis also could fund some “very enticing” research projects, he said.
Faculty members participating in the Jubail program : whether in Saudi Arabia or San Luis Obispo : would receive a salary increase, and no one would be excluded because of gender, religion or sexual orientation, Durgin said. Only men could teach engineering, but under the proposed contract, Cal Poly professors wouldn’t teach in Jubail unless the Saudis paid extra fees.
Until two years ago, no female could take an engineering class in Saudi Arabia. But with the help of Duke University in North Carolina, Effat College, a women’s school in Jeddah, started offering a major in computer engineering.
“The graduates won’t get out-in-the-field civil engineering jobs,” Duke’s Marianne Hassan said. “They will have highly desirable job skills in a field where one can work in a segregated environment, a mixed environment, or even at home.”
Hassan said such programs are slowly helping Saudi society to become more progressive : a point echoed by Cal Poly provost Durgin: “It’s better to participate and help them evolve than to stand off and hope that something will happen,” he said.
But [Jim] LoCascio, the [Cal Poly] faculty member who has been the most outspoken on the topic, disagreed.
“Look at South Africa,” he said. “The University of California divested from South Africa, along with the rest of the world, and apartheid came to an end.”
- David S. Cohen