Why A Taliban At Yale?

Americans who read the New York Times must have wrinkled their brows in puzzlement after reading the February 26, 2006 article about a former government official and spokesman for the Taliban walking the campus of Yale University as a student.

Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi has been granted special student status and the state department has awarded him entry into the United States on a student visa. This is an interesting turn of events for a person who could just as easily have ended up as a guest of the United States in a cell at Guantanamo Bay.

Prior to his arrival as a student, Rahmatullah had been imprisoned at Bagram Air Base. He had been a member of the Taliban government, serving both in Afghanistan and in the United States as Second Foreign Secretary and Ambassador-at-Large.

What the New York Times article fails to address is the rationale behind even allowing this individual into the United States, let alone as an International Student at a prestigious university. Another area not addressed in this account, is why Yale, which accepts only ten percent of all applicants, granted admission to this former Taliban officer.

Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi is said to have a fourth grade education and has passed a high school equivalency examination. He does speak acceptable English. This, however, does not meet any of the requirements Yale has listed for its International Students accepted for Special Programs. According to the College Board, Yale requires all foreign students to score in the 700 to 790 range on both the SAT verbal and math tests. International students must also score 600 on the TOEFL exam and 250 on a computer exam. In addition, Yale states in its admission policy that those students enrolled in special programs must fund their own education and a Foreign Student Certification of Finances must be filed.

These requirements may have been met by Rahmatullah, but they are never even brought to question in the Times article. Another unanswered question is how a former member of a now non-existent government can cover the $31,460 Yale tuition and fees and $9,540 room and board costs.

Entry into Yale was smoothed by the intervention of CBS news cameraman Mike Hoover who had developed a friendship with the government official during several trips to Afghanistan, dating back to 1991. Hoover contacted an attorney in his hometown of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. That attorney, Bob Schuster, who had earned his undergraduate degree at Yale, brought Rahmatullah to the attention of Richard Shaw, the Dean of Undergraduate Admissions. An interview was arranged.

According to the Times, Shaw said of the interview, “My perception was,’ It’s the enemy!’ But, the interview with him was one of the most interesting I’ve ever had. I walked away with a sense: Whoa! This is a person to be reckoned with and who could educate us about the world.”

John Fund, writing for the Opinion Journal does not view this admission as any great achievement, even though he quotes Richard Shaw as saying that...”another foreign student of Rahmatullah’s caliber had applied for special student status. We lost him to Harvard. I didn’t want that to happen again.”

Fund does not agree, saying “This is taking the obsession that U.S. universities have been promoting diversity a bit too far.

Regardless of how he gained admission, Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi is now strolling across the quad at Yale University. It is said he is doing well, earning a 3.33 grade point average. He should be scoring even higher. One of his first courses was titled “Terrorism - Past, Present and Future.”