Everyone seems worked up about Yale admitting an official of the Taliban as a student. While I find the guy in question pretty bankrupt, I'm not sure I am very excited about starting down the path of vetting potential college applicants against some political extremism standard. I am sure there are any number of Ivy League freshmen whose beliefs I would find horrifying, but I don't feel the need to start culling them out. I do find it odd that Yale would have recruited this guy like he was some kind of rock star, and celebrated his choice of Yale as if he was some prize.
As I have written to my Alma mater Princeton on any number of occasions, I think that Ivy League schools are making a huge mistake which is tangentially related to Yale's Taliban student. If the University of Texas had accepted him as one of 10,000 or so in their freshman class, there would not be so much outcry. But this is an Ivy League school, with 20,000 or more kids competing for 1500 freshman spots. Every parent tends to think, "so my kid with straight A's and a 1350 SAT and 200 hours of community service got turned down at Yale so a misogynist fascist with a 4th grade education can attend?"
Instead of arguing about admitting one less Taliban guy, I urge Ivy League schools to find a way to bring their higher quality of education to many more people. Princeton, Harvard, and Yale each have endowments over $10 billion each, and they use this money every year to increase the education intensity to the same 1500 people per class. Every time I go back to visit campus, I see more buildings, equipment, facilities, professors for the same 1500 folks. Enough! At some point there has got to be a diminishing return. It is time for someone in the Ivy League to take the leadership to redefine their mission away from the current facilities arms race with the other Ivy's and towards a mission to broaden their reach in the country. Instead of yet more molecular biology equipment for the same 1500 people per class, lets find a way to bring a Princeton education to, say, 6000 people a class. Lets quadruple the size of the Ivy League.
Of course, the Ivy League conservatives (which means, in this context, everyone who graduated before this year and all of the faculty) fear this change. The last thing the faculty, who we know to be in charge of the asylum from the whole Sommers affair, want is to have more students to teach -- they want the toys. And alumni fear that somehow the "essential essence" of the university might be lost, though everyone made that same argument when these schools went coed and few today would argue to reverse this decision. Administrators argue that the freshman pool would be diluted, sort of like the argument about pitching in baseball after expansion. But one only has to look at admissions numbers to see that quadrupling the freshman class size would cause the Ivy's to lower their standards to... about where they were when I got in! (If your SAT scores are in the 98th percentile you still have only a 10% chance of getting into Princeton or Harvard.) The fact is that the pool of high school students in the upper echelons and Ivy-ready has grown tremendously in the past few years, causing Ivy's to narrow their admissions qualifications to near ridiculous levels, with average SAT scores in the stratosphere, hundreds of hours of community service, multiple sports letters, and consultant-aided choices of special activities to differentiate students from the crowd (e.g. bagpipes or falconry).
I understand that this is difficult -- just the issue of physical space is daunting. But these are the leading Universities in the world. Surely there is enough brainpower to figure it out if the mission is accepted. The University of California has of late been doing a lot of interesting things to bring college education to the masses, and dealing with the fact that the number of people who can afford the cost and time of a college degree has increased exponentially. I think the Ivy League needs to work through the same exercise at the top end of the bell curve. They need to address a similar near exponential expansion in the number of students who are "Ivy-ready."