13 Mar 2006

Taliban at Yale Controversy Continues

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Yale and special student Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi, former Taliban ambassador, have doubtless been hoping the controversy created by that February 26th New York Times Magazine feature article would finally subside, but John Fund of the Wall Street Journal today is continuing his personal jihad, moving on to playing gotcha! with the Yale administration over a heated email.

Beyond a single vague 144-word statement (later expanded to 281 words, including a defense of Yale’s not hosting a ROTC program), Yale won’t let anyone comment officially, citing student privacy issues and hoping they can keep silent and last out the storm. But unofficially, some Yale administrators are privately trashing critics. One even anonymously sent scathing emails to two critics calling them “retarded” and “disgusting.”

That official–Alexis Surovov, assistant director of giving at Yale Law School–did talk to me. Last Wednesday, Mr. Surovov sent an angry email from a Columbia University account to Clinton Taylor and Debbie Bookstaber, two young Yale grads who are so frustrated at their alma mater’s refusal to answer questions about Mr. Rahmatullah that they’ve launched a protest. Called NailYale, it focuses on the Taliban’s barbaric treatment of women, which extended to yanking out the fingernails of those who wore nail polish. In a column on TownHall.com, they urged alumni “not give one red cent this year, but instead send Yale a red press-on fingernail.”

Mr. Surovov, a Yale alumnus who has worked in its development office for three years and is on the board of the Yale Club of New Haven, wrote Mr. Taylor and Ms. Bookstaber at their private email addresses with the subject heading: “Y [sic] do you hate Yale.” Here is his email in its entirety: “What is wrong with you? Are you retarded? This is the most disgraceful alumni article that I have ever read in my life. You failed to mention that you’ve never contributed to the Yale Alumni Fund in your life. But to suggest that others follow your negative example is disgusting.”

Intrigued that someone had looked up his wife’s giving record, David Bookstaber, a Yale computer science graduate, used Columbia’s publicly accessible IT account database to trace the anonymous email. The trail led straight to Mr. Surovov’s Yale office. On Thursday Mr. Taylor phoned Mr. Suvarov, who told him he was angry because the furor over the Taliban official was hurting fund raising and could lower Yale’s rankings in the next U.S. News & World Report college survey. He also accused Mr. Taylor and Ms. Bookstaber of “terrorist tactics,” which when challenged he amended to “terror tactics.”

Tsk tsk.

John mentions, in conclusion, that he also spoke to someone sensible:

A former Yale admissions official told me Mr. Rahmatullah’s acceptance into the special student program normally would give him a clear advantage when he applies for the full-degree program next month. “Now that their stealth admission of a Taliban official is public after eight months, the best thing Yale can do now is suggest he ‘study abroad’ next year,” he told me. “Otherwise, they risk losing all credibility if they keep letting him study there while flatly refusing to explain their decision to anyone.”

Precisely right. Pack young Rahmatullah off to Oxford or Cambridge for a year where he can improve his haberdashery, and acquire a touch of polish, and then let him slink back to New Haven quietly when enough time has gone by for that Times’ article to have been forgotten.

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Earlier posts.

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Mr. Justin Cox, one of the contributors to Opinion Work Product, which seems to be a two man blog originating at Yale Law School, posted a comment to a recent Rahmatullah posting here in which he rebuked me, saying that “the debate regarding Hashemi is far more nuanced and complex than you are letting on.” And advising me that, for a fairer treatment of the issue, I should run, not walk, over to Opinion Work Product to get the straight dope.

I looked at them, and thought their contents were less witty, and no more balanced, than my own postings, but I do thank Mr. Cox for bringing them, and his blog, to my attention. Mr. Cox supplied five links, which may very well be of interest to all true Rahmatullah controversy devotees.

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