Yale’s Ahmadinejad Class Meeting Isn’t the Real Scandal

by Michael Rubin

Yale sophomore Sharif Vakili takes on Yale lecturer Hillary Mann Leverett and her well-publicized class meeting with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I don’t know Vakili, but his essay is good reminder that naked realism as embraced by Leverett isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

To me, the Ahmadinejad meeting is not the scandal, although the obsequiousness of it problematic. Based on Leverett’s syllabus, Yale’s new Jackson Institute for Global Affairs is a joke. Let’s put aside the fact that a lecturer calling herself professor is akin to a major in the army calling himself general. Let’s also put aside the fact that it’s bad form to repeatedly assign one’s own writing to the class. Finally, let’s put aside the fact that classes should not be designed for indoctrination: Leverett, for example, peddles the discredited conspiracy theory about an alleged 2003 grand bargain offer by Iran, but doesn’t note opposite interpretations, a serious omission given that Leverett’s own views are now roundly discredited.

While Leverett does assign some book excerpts (including The Israel Lobby), on many weeks, shouldn’t students paying perhaps $30,000+ per year for a Master’s Degree get assigned something more academically rigorous than the lecturer’s blog posts? It’s clear that the Jackson Center wants controversy in order to bolster its name. It pursues this, however, at the expense of academic reputation. It’s clear that Yale international-relations degrees should not be considered on the same par as those of Tufts, SAIS, Princeton, or even the Kennedy School. If the rigor of Leverett’s class is representative of the Jackson Center’s scholarship, its graduates, alas, will be unqualified for the job market.