As the May 1 deadline for former Taliban diplomat Rahmatullah Hashemi’s application to the Eli Whitney Students Program draws near, Yale administrators have continued to deflect questions and concerns that have been raised nationwide about his presence at the University.
Massachusetts resident Margaret Pothier, who contacted Yale President Richard Levin in mid-March on behalf of herself and her sister, Katherine Bailey, whose husband was killed in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and Natalie Healy, whose Navy SEAL son died in Afghanistan last year, have protested Hashemi’s admittance to Yale’s non-degree special student program last summer. If Hashemi applies to the degree program, he will be notified of his acceptance status within 60 days of the May 1 application deadline, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeffrey Brenzel said.
Bailey, whose husband Ace was on United Airlines flight 175, which crashed into the second World Trade Center building, said that when she first learned about Hashemi’s presence at Yale, she was appalled.
“My first reaction was that this must be a mistake,” she said. “It adds to the anger that Yale hasn’t said anything about [Hashemi] either way, especially to those of us who lost loved ones on that day.”
Healy was granted a meeting with Levin on March 23, after contacting Yale to communicate her frustration about the decision to allow Hashemi to attend Yale. Healy’s son Daniel, a Navy SEAL chief petty officer, was one of 16 Americans who died last year when their helicopter was shot down by Afghani insurgents.
Healy said she was held up in traffic on her way to New Haven and missed her scheduled meeting with Levin. She met with Yale spokesman Tom Conroy instead. Healy said she is particularly angry about Hashemi’s presence at Yale, as the mother of a slain soldier.
“This man’s former cohorts are killing our kids over there,” she said. “And I don’t see where [Hashemi] has turned over a new leaf.”
Though Levin said his staff has been in touch with Healy, he said she missed their meeting because she was being filmed by newscasters in New Haven beforehand.
“She called my office and said she was coming to see me,” Levin said. “I thought I would be happy to see her for a few minutes, … [but] she was outside my office and did not come in. She was up the block getting filmed for Fox News for half an hour before she let me know she was there.”
Pothier, whose daughter graduated from Yale last year, said she e-mailed Levin expressing her dissatisfaction and received a stock response identical to the statement Yale officials have released in the past weeks about Hashemi, which says universities “must strive to increase understanding” of controversial issues. Pothier said she wrote back twice but has not received a response from Levin.
Pothier said she hopes major donors will reconsider giving to the University, and that she is disturbed by Yale’s silence in the matter.
Bailey said that even if Hashemi publicly repudiated the Taliban’s beliefs and dissociated himself from the organization, she is unsure whether she would change her mind about his presence at Yale and in the United States.
“The Taliban killed my husband,” she said.
Healy said she would like to meet with Hashemi in person to better understand both him and his beliefs.
“If this man wants to bring both sides together, we need to know that,” she said. “I want to feel his spirit. If I had the opportunity to meet with him, of course I would.”
While Pothier and Healy both contacted Yale directly, Rutgers University mechanical and aerospace engineering professor Haym Benaroya contacted former Yale Dean of Admissions Richard Shaw, currently the dean of admissions at Stanford University, to try to better understand Shaw’s admission of Hashemi as a special student in 2005.
Shaw wrote in his second e-mail to Benaroya that Hashemi exhibited a “potential to make a positive difference in seeking ways towards peace and democracy” and he wrote that “an education is a way toward understanding the complex nuances of world politic.”
In reference to a past student of Hashemi’s “caliber” who chose to attend Harvard University over Yale, Shaw was quoted in a February issue of The New York Times Magazine as saying “We lost him to Harvard. I didn’t want that to happen again.”
Shaw did not respond to requests for an interview.
According to Yale’s Web site, in the Eli Whitney program, “preference is given to applicants whose work/life experience and community involvements promise to add unusual dimensions to undergraduate life in the classroom.” Students in the Eli Whitney program are not housed on campus and are ineligible for financial aid.
Brenzel refused to comment when asked whether public pressure or public opinion is taken into consideration when considering high-profile candidates for admission.
Levin said the application will be processed exclusively by the Admissions Office.
“[Hashemi] hasn’t made an application yet, and … it will never be on my desk,” he said. “I don’t read admissions files. That’s not my job.”
Hashemi’s American sponsors — Mike Hoover, Tatiana Maxwell and Bob Schuster ’67 — did not respond to requests for comment.