Schwarzman College at MIT Spurs Outcry by Students, Faculty

(Bloomberg) -- Blackstone Group LP Chief Executive Officer Steven Schwarzman was criticized by a group of students and faculty from the Massachusetts Institute Technology, who asked the school to cancel a celebration of a new computing center named for him.

Schwarzman College at MIT Spurs Outcry by Students, Faculty

Schwarzman’s work as an adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump, opposition to an affordable housing bill in California and his hosting of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman were cited as reasons for the protest in an opinion piece in The Tech, a campus newspaper. Signed by 18 students, faculty or alumni, it raised concerns about the school accepting Schwarzman’s donation of $350 million.

Schwarzman College at MIT Spurs Outcry by Students, Faculty

“Schwarzman’s alliance with the Saudi crown prince represents an agenda of profit at any cost, a far cry from the pious statements about ‘ethics’ pronounced in public,” the group said in the op-ed.

At issue is the Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing. Schwarzman’s gift was announced in October, and was described then as the largest personal donation by the 72-year-old billionaire.

“Advancing artificial intelligence responsibly is one of the most pressing challenges of our times and it should transcend politics,” Blackstone said in an emailed statement Monday. “Steve is proud to support an institution that is making a major commitment to be at the epicenter of the technology’s evolution by allowing the free and open discussion of its development and impact."

MIT was closed for President’s Day, and a spokeswoman didn’t have immediate comment on the criticism. She shared an emailed statement from Provost Martin Schmidt that said the event later this month will celebrate a “historic moment” for the school and provide an opportunity to “consider the most important issues around artificial intelligence and its impact on society.” About 50 speakers across three days are scheduled to participate.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.