Yale alumni relations’ response: "Are you retarded?"

Clinton W. Taylor
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Posted: Mar 13, 2006 12:05 AM

We’d be lying if we said we were surprised at the public outrage to Yale’s admission of former deputy foreign secretary of the Taliban, Sayeed Rahmatullah Hashemi. It was an outrageous and indefensible decision, and America knows it. We hoped to crystallize a national response with our campaign to send fake red fingernails to Yale. From the reactions we’ve received, we’ve really nailed them.

Among the scores of blistering e-mails we’ve received, three stand out. Let’s call them: the good, the great, and the ugly.

The Good was from a serviceman in Fallujah, who couldn’t believe how "how spineless, spiteful, spiritless and unpatriotic some people can be," and whose fingernails are en route to Yale:

I wish [Yale’s President] Richard C. Levin could explain to the American families who've lost loved ones here why Yale has one of those Taliban morons in attendance.
The Great was from one of the charities that we recommended in our column as an alternative to building Yale’s $15 billion-and-change endowment: ProjectValour-IT, which provides voice-activated laptops for hospitalized soldiers:
Directly inspired by your endorsement, a company in North Carolina would now like to donate some rebuilt laptops to us. Money has been rather tight recently, so the laptops are particularly welcome and valuable to our efforts at this time.
And the Ugly was from a Yale Development Office Assistant Director, Alexis Surovov (Yale ’02), who sent us a love note entitled "Y Do You Hate Yale?":
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.

Mr. Surovov didn’t sign his e-mail, and he sent it through a Columbia account. After Debbie’s husband, a Yale Computer Science graduate, traced it back to him, Clint called him at his Yale office on Thursday to ask if he really thought we were retarded.

"Personally, that’s how I feel about it," he said. He didn’t approve of our "terrorist tactics" and when asked whether he really meant that, changed it to "terror tactics." He thought the red fingernails we advocated sending in were "a stretch," and a bit gruesome—"like something out of Quentin Tarantino’s movie Hostel." [Which is a horror film about backpackers being brutally tortured and killed.]

"Yeah, that’s the whole point," Clint said. "This isn’t a movie. The Taliban really did this stuff!"

While Mr. Surovov conceded that we were unlikely to drive Yale single-handedly into bankruptcy, he worried about the effects of all this negative publicity on alumni relations. Alumni satisfaction, he pointed out, is a critical component of U.S. News and World Report’s ranking of colleges. "It’s going to have repercussions," he complained. "It already has."

To answer the question posed in the title of Mr. Surovov’s e-mail, we don’t hate Yale. We love it. We’re proud to have gone there, and we both managed to get a good education. Both of us met our spouses at Yale and formed lasting friendships with a diverse and amazing group of Yalies. Both of us have been volunteer interviewers for Yale’s Alumni Schools Committee, and Clint worked as a recruiter in the admissions office all four of his undergraduate years while Debbie volunteered as a coordinator of the Yale Women’s Center. Not only is Yale important to us, it’s important to America. Three hundred and five years after its founding, it is still a top research institution and also a great source of American leadership. Three presidents have gone there as undergraduates, and two attended its law school. Heroes like Nathan Hale studied there, and the names of hundreds of Yale graduates who "gave their lives that freedom might not perish from the earth" are inscribed on the marble walls of Woolsey Hall.

When this great institution decides to let in the Taliban’s little Ribbentrop because of, rather than in spite of, his history, something is dreadfully wrong in New Haven. We want it fixed.

__________

Everyone has sent e-mails in haste and regretted it later, so Clint followed up via e-mail to ask Mr. Surovov whether he regretted calling us "retarded." His response?

“I regret nothing. Do you regret posting your column?”

Not one bit, Alexis. Not one bit. In fact, we’re upping the ante.

Townhall.com has graciously agreed to host a blog, which we hope will serve as a clearinghouse for information and opinion about the situation. The NailYale blog debuts later this week. Mr. Rahmatullah is applying to switch from his "special student" program to become a full-fledged undergraduate later this month. Before Yale makes its decision, they need to know exactly what sort of outrage and ridicule his acceptance would entail.

Do not let your enthusiasm flag. Please keep sending in fake fingernails to Yale (addresses here), and please continue to tell others about this campaign. Kindly mention it on talk shows, around the water cooler, and in letters to the editor on the subject. Copy us on your letters us at nailyale@hotmail.com, and we’ll publish some of the best responses. Judging from Mr. Surovov’s frantic, offensive e-mail to us, we’ve got Yale on the ropes.

Related: Giving Yale the Finger