Harvard Revokes Admission Offers to 10 Students Over Offensive Facebook Group Chat
At least 10 incoming freshmen won't be graduating as part of the Harvard Class of 2021 after the school withdrew acceptance offers to students who had shared offensive memes on Facebook.
A small, private Facebook group chat called both "Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens" and "General f***ups" contained images -- some of which were gathered by The Tab -- mocking or ridiculing the Holocaust, Mexicans, necrophilia, the Columbine tragedy, sex with children and other topics. Multiple students who had planned to attend Harvard in the fall joined the chat after participating in a larger, official Facebook group for incoming students, though many more refused to engage with the distasteful offshoot.
The school was notified of the inflammatory private chat by numerous students who had heard about or seen the memes. Several of these students, alarmed by the images' content, sent screenshots to Harvard administrators, who followed up by emailing participants:
The Admissions Committee was disappointed to learn that several students in a private group chat for the Class of 2021 were sending messages that contained offensive messages and graphics. As we understand you were among the members contributing such material to this chat, we are asking that you submit a statement by tomorrow at noon to explain your contributions and actions for discussion with the Admissions Committee.
Harvard has not officially spoken on the matter. A spokesperson told the school's student newspaper, The Crimson, "We do not comment publicly on the admissions status of individual applicants.”
The incident raises the issue of whether a school should be policing a private interaction in which no one was actually hurt or endangered. "On the one hand, I think people can post whatever they want because they have the right to do that," said incoming freshman Cassandra Luca. "I don’t think the school should have gone in and rescinded some offers because it wasn’t Harvard-affiliated — it was people doing stupid stuff."
Her opinion is not universally shared, though, and is perhaps the minority view. “I haven’t seen any of the stuff firsthand, but I definitely think that the administration made the right choice," said Luca's fellow Class of 2021 member Wyatt Hurt. "And I think that as an incoming student — we all have our group chats and everything like that going on — we all pretty much universally agree it was the right decision.”
Harvard did issue a specific warning to accepted students using the larger, official Facebook group: "As a reminder, Harvard College reserves the right to withdraw an offer of admission under various conditions including if an admitted student engages in behavior that brings into question his or her honesty, maturity, or moral character."
It appears that not everyone took that reminder seriously. These students got into Harvard. You figure they'd know by now that anything you post online — anything — can and will be seen, and that once you post it, it's more or less out of your control who sees it. That may not be fair, but it's certainly not a secret.