Can freedom actually take root at a major university today? If so, it just may happen in Saudi Arabia.
The King Abdullah Science and Technology University opened its doors last month—and was fully operational on day one—complete with a megabucks endowment, one of the world’s fastest supercomputers, and nearly 14 square miles of beachfront campus on the Red Sea north of Jeddah, according to AP reports.
While the university is officially cast as a means to diversify Saudi Arabia’s economic base, it also paves the way for a breakthrough from the strict Wahhabi Islam to a 21st century campus culture where women can drive, shed their face veils and “mix freely with men.”
University president Choon Fong Shih, who formerly headed the National University of Singapore, summed it up in a recent AP interview: “We recruit the very best in the world . . . and we give them the freedom to pursue their scientific interests.”
Deborah Lambert writes the Squeaky Chalk column for Accuracy in Academia.