11 Jun 2006

Thank You, Ramahtullah

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The indiscreet New York Times Magazine feature last February rejoicing in the presence at Yale (in the capacity of a special student) of former Taliban roving ambassador and international spokesman Sayed Ramahtullah Hashemi led to a heap of controversy and proved a major embarassment to the university administration. But it’s an ill wind, and all that.

All the flak brought down upon liberal heads at Yale during the brouhaha over poor little Ramahtullah’s presence on campus intimidated the rascals. It was the million dollars worth of Ramahtullah-associated bad publicity that persuaded the powers that be at Yale to refrain from a far worse decision: the appointment of an egegrious apologist for Midde Eastern terrorism, the infamous Juan Cole, to a senior position on the faculty at Yale.

The decision is in. Cole is out.

And Juan Cole is now posting on his blog all about just how sour grow the grapes in old New Haven:

I am very happy at the University of Michigan, which has among the largest and oldest Middle East Studies programs in the United States. It is like Disney World for a Middle East specialist. To its credit, the University invested tens of millions of dollars in creating positions and building library and other resources in this field at at time when it was considered marginal by many other universities. Michigan also has a History Department that is among the very best and largest in the country, characterized by diversity of area specialization and innovative, interdisciplinary scholarship. It is a nurturing and congenial intellectual environment. Many fine departments in the US have a North Atlantic focus or bias, but Michigan for decades has had a global emphasis.

The press has some out of date impressions about our major research universities, imagining that the old hierarchy of Ivy League versus the rest is still meaningful. It is not. Research universities, whether state (Berkeley, the University of Michigan) or private, are much more similar than they are different. Were I ever to go to another place, it would likely be as a pioneer in a less well-developed Middle East Studies program, for the purpose of building up something that we already have at Michigan. That is, it would be a personal sacrifice for some purpose, and not a decision easily made.

Ah, yes! Michigan is just as good. We’re all sure you’ll be very happy staying there, Juan, old boy. And a good many Yale men are even happier than you are that you’re staying there.

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Just how disgraceful a faculty appointment Juan Cole’s would have been may be discerned from a perusal of this Front Page article.

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