Kingman Brewster ’41, onetime president of the University, once said of the qualities needed to gain admission, “A demonstrated failure of moral sensitivity or regard for the dignity of others cannot be redeemed by allegations that the young man is extremely ‘interesting.'” Many at Yale wish to “move on” from the debate regarding former Taliban ambassador and current non-degree special student Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi. But are the issues raised best swept under a rug, or is it in Yale’s long-term interest to confront them directly?
On Wednesday, the Yale College Council debated a resolution based on Brewster’s admissions policy, a 1967 document that Yale itself says “offers the primary orientation to all those who will be engaged in the admission process.” Without even mentioning Hashemi, the resolution stated Yale’s goals “can only be fulfilled by those individuals who possess a genuine moral concern and consideration for others unlike themselves.”
There was no vote and further debate was postponed. Austin Broussard ’06, one of its authors, says several YCC representatives called for “tolerance” and giving Hashemi “the benefit of the doubt.” But is there any doubt that by willingly defending the Taliban for four years, former Ambassador Hashemi fails Yale’s own test of moral character? If he doesn’t, why won’t he break his five-week silence?
At least the YCC speakers take more of a stand than Yale President Richard Levin has. Yale has offered no defense of Hashemi’s presence beyond a vague, 144-word statement that notes the State Department approved his visa. (Yes, Congress and I are pursuing that angle too.) “Yale won’t allow ROTC on campus, but it wants to act like the Pentagon when it comes to information control,” one Yale professor quipped. Is this how students, alumni and faculty deserve to have their legitimate questions treated?
Take questions about admissions. Thursday, at OpinionJournal.com, I quoted a Yale official saying that determining factors in making the final cut for the Class of 2010 included an incident of shoplifting at age 12 and drunken behavior at one high school prom. Moral character is factored in at Yale. But Richard Shaw, Yale’s former admissions dean, has all but admitted that Hashemi got in because of his Taliban background.
My articles have been attacked for allegedly reflecting an obsessive desire to do Yale harm. That’s not the case. The reason why two former Yale presidents, a former dean of Yale College and many current officials have expressed concern about Hashemi isn’t that they hate Yale. They believe Yale’s ostrich-like behavior and official silence is sacrificing its credibility. All of them, and me, want Yale to continue to be a great university.
Rather than face the real issues, some at Yale have instead lashed out. Yale Law School has relieved one of its development officials of his duties for calling the founders of NailYale “retarded.” There is an inquiry into whether he used data from personal donor databases to attack them.
News columnist Roger Low ’07 attacked me last week (“Pundits use Hashemi to unfairly attack Yale,” 3/23). I wrote that the Yale Political Union’s vice president had invited Flagg Youngblood ’97 and me “to debate both military recruitment and the Hashemi case.” But when the proposal was brought to the executive board, it was rejected. The YPU’s vice president and president now dispute my account, but Youngblood and I both stand by it. But Low decided, without contacting me, that he knew “for a fact that [our account] is a blatant lie, and so does John Fund.” Low later told me he remains “100 percent certain” of all the facts.
My interest in this case stems from a spring 2001 meeting I had with then-Ambassador Hashemi at the Wall Street Journal’s offices across the street from the World Trade Center. I left the 90-minute meeting convinced I had seen true religious fanaticism and, yes, evil. Hashemi dismissed concerns about the Taliban’s “guest” Osama bin Laden (elsewhere during his U.S. tour he called him “a good guy”).
I next thought about Hashemi on Sept. 11 of that year, as I stood outside our building covered in dust and debris staring at the remains of the towers that had collapsed with 3,000 Americans inside. Imagine my surprise last month when I read that Hashemi was part of the Yale community. Today, Taliban remnants are still killing Americans in Afghanistan; on Wednesday news came of the 139th U.S. soldier to die at their hands.
In Monday’s News, James Kirchick ’06 wrote that “outrage over religious fascism ought to be the province of American liberals” (“Afghan politician contrasts with student,” 3/27). He lamented that “our politics have become so polarized that many are willing to take positions based on the inverse of their opponents’ … it hurts our national discourse.”
I agree, and I know conservatives also sometimes fail to confront tough moral choices. Let’s hope that Yale, which just divested from genocidal Sudan with the support of the YCC, can also deal with the pending application of a former official of the murderous Taliban regime to join its sophomore class next fall.
John Fund is a columnist with the Wall Street Journal’s OpinionJournal.com.