Yale's latest folly -->

One thing Mike Joyce would not have liked is the spectacle of the Taliban’s former ambassador-at-large cozily ensconced as a special student at Yale and studying (no, we are not making this up) such courses as “Terrorism: Past, Present, and Future.” As The New York Times Magazine reported on February 26, Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi, who a few years ago toured the world to explain why his government was blowing up 1,000-year-old Buddhist statues, is enjoying life in New Haven: “In some ways, I’m the luckiest person in the world. I could have ended up in Guantanamo Bay. Instead I ended up at Yale.” Indeed. The story in the Times maintained an air of neutrality—isn’t it interesting what’s become of those statue-bashing folks from Afghanistan?—but John Fund at The Wall Street Journal has followed up with several tart stories that ask the questions that should be asked about Yale’s latest exercise in multicultural outreach. As Fund notes, “Something is very wrong at our elite universities.” (Not that we needed this latest episode to convince us of that.) Last month it was Larry Summers with his girl trouble at Harvard. Now Yale is welcoming a chap who was, until his lease was revoked by the United States Air Force a few years ago, (in Fund’s words) a “high official in one of the most evil regimes of the latter half of the twentieth century.”

How exactly did Mr. Rahmatullah get his student visa to come to the United States in the first place? No one seems to know—or at least no one is telling. Why was someone with a fourth-grade education and a high-school equivalency degree accepted at Yale? Try that with your son or daughter. The Times reported that Richard Shaw, dean of undergraduate admissions at Yale, recalled another foreign student “of Rahmatullah’s caliber” who had applied for special student status: “We lost him to Harvard,” Mr. Shaw said, “I didn’t want that to happen again.” Yes, that would be a pity, wouldn’t it?

Mr. Fund had come across Mr. Rahmatullah before. In the spring of 2001, the Taliban envoy had come to the United States on a public relations tour to explain his government’s penchant for blowing up religious treasures that didn’t fit into the Islamic scheme of things. At a meeting at the offices of The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Rahmatullah cheerfully noted that, before it set off the explosive charges to destroy the Buddhist statues, the Taliban had thoughtfully removed the hundred or so people living nearby. Well, thanks for that, pal: most considerate. Osama bin Laden was not then the household name he became on the morning of September 11, 2001, but he was wanted in connection with various other terrorist acts, and someone at the Journal asked about him. He was, Mr. Rahmatullah said, a “guest” of his government, and, besides, no one had proved his connection with the bombing of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. What’s more, he said, if those bombings were terrorist acts, then so was the Clinton administration’s effort to kill bin Laden by firing cruise missiles into Afghanistan: “You killed 19 innocent people,” he said.

Mr. Fund recalls walking Mr. Rahmatullah out after the meeting. As they waited for the elevator, Mr. Rahmatullah stared up at the World Trade Center which had stood across the street from the Journal’s offices. “We stood there for a minute chatting,” Mr. Fund writes, “but I don’t recall what he said. He then left. I next thought about him a few months later, on Sept. 11, as I stood outside our office building covered in dust and debris staring at the remains of the towers that had just collapsed.” Yale’s official response to questions about Mr. Rahmatullah has been to circle the wagons. So far, it has favored us with a single 144-word statement (later expanded to 281 words). Although it included a defense of Yale’s policy of excluding the ROTC from campus, that statement leaves all the essential questions unanswered. Why, for example, is Yale making room for a former employee of a brutal terrorist regime when another deserving student—maybe even an American—might benefit from a place at Yale? Why should Yale alumni support an institution so besotted with the rancid pieties of multiculturalism that the dean of undergraduate admissions would walk over broken glass to enroll someone like Mr. Rahmatullah? Not that alumni contributions matter much these days. Yale, like several other elite institutions, sits on top of a multi-billion dollar endowment, thus effectively insulating it from public accountability. Perhaps it is in this area we should be asking the most pressing questions. Is Yale (and such sister schools as Harvard, Princeton, and Stanford) too rich for its own, or at least for the public’s, good? The current Yale alumni magazine asks Rick Levin, the president of Yale, that question. It is time it was posed with something other than rhetorical force.

This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 24 Number 8, on page 2
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