Campus Scenes

Yale’s Mission Impossible

A great university finds itself lost in the Ivy universe.

By 4.20.06

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In God and Man at Yale, William F. Buckley, Jr., reasoned, "A responsible, reflective man must, soon in life, cast his lot with the Communists or against them... If he and others like him embrace certain values, as civilized men who recognize that they are 'involved in mankind,' they must cherish and advance them with fervor." While Communism may have receded from the international stage since the book's printing in 1951, evil and intolerance have not, and Buckley's prescription for the responsible, reflective man involved in mankind still holds true today. A man must necessarily elect to be either for or against tyranny; any attempt to adopt some falsely impartial stance on the question of totalitarianism is, frankly, idiotic.

Although Yale's stance on various issues might vary according to the wishes of the alumni to whom it's held accountable, it's relatively safe to say that most of Yale's past and present students would take for granted that the administration would have made its choice as responsible, reflective men and come out as anti-tyranny. But then why would it have admitted Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi, the unrepentant mouthpiece and propagandist for a bunch of would-be Nazis? They were different only in that they were too lazy and stupid to effectively oppress their own people -- they worked four-hour days. Personally, I would prefer the Yale administration to be anti-Taliban, just as it should be anti-Nazi, but if Hashemi's admission to a nondegree special student program and presumed admission to the regular student body this spring is any indication, it seems the heads of our University don't think they need to choose a position at all.

Perhaps the best indication of the thought process behind Hashemi's admission can be seen in just-departed Dean of Admissions Richard Shaw's explanation of the decision in the New York Times Magazine puff piece that broke the story: Shaw described his impression of Hashemi as a "a person to be reckoned with and who could educate us about the world"; he recalled that Yale had missed the chance to enroll "another foreigner of Rahmatullah's caliber," saying, "We lost him to Harvard...I didn't want that to happen again." While it would be hilarious in a kind of entirely depressing way to find out what foreigner Shaw considered to be of "Rahmatullah's caliber," the fact is that it apparently never occurred to any of the involved parties that, surprise, people might have a problem with Yale equipping the Taliban's frontman with the tools to consolidate and reshape Afghanistan's government as he saw fit. It was just another totally awesome admissions grab. High five, guys!

Yes, high five for casting this decision in the most purely mercenary terms and entirely abdicating your moral responsibilities as administrators, as the public representatives of every member of this university, and as human beings. As Benno Schmidt, former Yale president, put it in one of Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund's series of articles on the issue, this admissions decision is predicated on little more than "amorality and cynicism." Hashemi is a barbarian and a mutant, but Yale should probably be a little more worried that the individuals entrusted with the stewardship of the University's student body and with transforming a bunch of social defectives with high SAT scores into leaders of men have shown that they don't know even how to be men properly, much less leaders. The official response to this controversy has been to go into media lockdown, presumably in the hope that people will magically forget that this administration has made it look like the only thing Yale stands for and really believes in is coming in third on the U.S. News & World Report college rankings. How does it reflect on us when the heads of a university trusted to produce articulate, thoughtful graduates can't even manage to offer a convincing defense of their decision?

In his preface for the twenty-fifth anniversary edition of God and Man at Yale, Buckley identified what distinguished Yale from a comparable state school: its sense of mission. What is Yale's mission now? To lose in the rankings to Harvard and Princeton -- again? I think congratulations are in order for Yale's current administration, which, in its amoral admissions zeal, has managed to thoroughly debase Yale as an institution. Maybe Buckley puts it best: "For the educator, complacent in his ivory tower, to scorn affiliation with a cause he considers to be noble...is unmistakably to forswear a democratic responsibility, and to earn for himself the contemptible title of dilettante and solipsist." Yale's administration should not deny Hashemi admission to the undergraduate student body this spring -- it should expel him now. Maybe then Yale can regain its sense of mission and once more become involved in mankind.

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About the Author

Sam Heller is a sophomore at Yale.