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Saturday, April 01, 2006

mr. taliban

I've come across this message from the Yale Admissions office re: Mr. Hashemi, the former Taliban spokesperson who is now a non-degree Special Student at that fine institution. Personally, I haven't thought this was a big deal. It isn't Yale's job to judge the moral character of their candidates. From my understanding, the Special Student program is designed to admit people with non-traditional backgrounds who have academic potential and who can contribute something unique to the University. Though this guy may not have been my preferred choice if I were on their committee, his admission seems perfectly rationalizable.

But, what a pretentious bunch of gibberish and double-speak Yale's email is. I've commented on some of the sillier bits (emphasis mine):
From: Jeffrey Brenzel, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions
To: Alumni School Committee Directors

On February 26, the New York Times Magazine ran a cover story profiling Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi, an individual who is currently taking undergraduate courses part-time at Yale in a special student program that does not award Yale degrees. Mr. Hashemi is a former member of the Taliban party in Afghanistan. At the age of 21, he visited the United States as a spokesperson for the Afghan government, a few months before the events of 9/11.
Could we skirt the truth a little more? This description makes it sound like he was a spokesperson for the Afghan government who just happened to be a Taliban party member, as opposed to a representative of the Taliban regime, actively engaged in defending their regressive policies. Imagine the difference between a Nazi party member who represented the German government vs. a Nazi party spokesperson who defended the detention and execution of Jews.
Following the invasion of coalition forces, he escaped Afghanistan and was later cleared twice by the State Department, both for a temporary visa and then a student visa granting entry to the United States.

The original profile in the New York Times has produced other media stories, including some that have been critical of Yale for allowing a former Taliban member to take courses here. If you have seen this coverage, you may have questions about it, or you may receive questions from applicants, parents, school counselors, or other alumni in your ASC area.

Within the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, we are responding to inquiries with two comments. First, some articles have stated that Mr. Hashemi is occupying a place in Yale College that would otherwise be available to another undergraduate student from the United States or abroad. This is not the case. Mr. Hashemi has not been admitted to Yale College as a degree-seeking undergraduate.
This is highly misleading. Just because Hashemi isn't a degree-seeking undergraduate doesn't mean he isn't occupying the spot of another student. The non-degree Special Student program is limited in size, and he is there in place of someone else. It is also not uncommon for non-degree students to apply as degree students after a year or two, and if they have been successful in their coursework, they have a very strong advantage in the admissions process. Aside from the obvious advantage that the admissions committee sees success at Yale as correlating strongly with success at Yale, non-degree students don't have to go through the regular pool of over 20,000 freshman and transfer applicants. They instead are selected by the Special Student admissions committee, which has their own dean as a member. Hashemi has said he intends to apply to the degree program in just such a way. This opportunity is certainly being denied someone else.
Rather, he obtained approval last spring to take courses part-time as a non-degree special student. A small number of non-traditional students use this program to earn a limited number of college level credits. If Mr. Hashemi applies for a degree-granting, we would review that application in due course.
See comments above. Also, I presume that should be "degree-granting program."
Second, in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, we are following well-established policy of not commenting publicly on Mr. Hashemi’s case, just as we refrain from commenting publicly on anyone who is a potential candidate for admission. In your work as an admissions volunteer representing the office, we ask that you not make public comments as well, unless you simply seek to clarify the point that Mr. Hashemi has not been admitted or enrolled in a degree-granting program at Yale.
So the official response is not to comment at all, except to distance Yale from the guy as much as possible. What a lack of loyalty. Where's the, "We refuse to comment on the specific factors that went into Mr. Hashemi's application review, but we stand by this and every other admissions decision, under the criteria outlined in [wherever the non-degree Special Student admisisons criteria are outlined], any public controversies notwithstanding."?
We know that with respect to his presence on campus, views will differ sharply and that you may hear from some who feel strongly on both sides of this issue. You may also have strong feelings of your own, and I would welcome hearing your feedback or having you forward to me correspondence that you receive from others.

I would also just like you to know that we deeply appreciate the enormous efforts that you and your interviewers have made to reach this year’s record number of 21,100 applicants for places in the Class of 2010. In the last two ASC newsletters, I have reported some impressions of my first year as Dean, and I will share some further thoughts with you when we complete the regular decision cycle.

Yours for Yale,
Jeffrey Brenzel
Dean of Undergraduate Admissions
Yes, he actually signed, "Yours for Yale." What a tool.

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