Harvard University revoked admissions offers of at least ten members of its incoming freshman class in mid-April for the posting of “offensive” memes, according to a report published Sunday.
The students had sent the memes and messages through a private Facebook chat named “Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens,” which was created in late December 2016, according to The Harvard Crimson. The memes mocked subjects such as the Holocaust, sexual assault, and deaths of children.
Approximately 100 admitted Class of 2017 Harvard students created a messaging group in early December to share memes. Some members of this group proposed creating “a more R-rated” meme group, according to Cassandra Luca, a member of Harvard’s incoming freshman class who did not join the second group.
“[The second group’s founders] were like, ‘Oh, you have to send a meme to the original group to prove that you could get into the new one,'” said Luca to The Harvard Review. “This was a just-because-we-got-into-Harvard-doesn’t-mean-we-can’t-have-fun kind of thing.”
Harvard admissions officers emailed students in this second chat in mid-April, requesting that the students turn over all pictures they sent through the chat, said one student who had their offer revoked and would only speak anonymously to The Harvard Crimson.
“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,” said the Admissions Office’s email, a copy of which The Harvard Crimson obtained. “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.”
“It is unfortunate that I have to reach out about this situation,” the email added.
About one week later, at least ten members of the meme chat obtained letters announcing the revocation of their admission offers.
“As a reminder, Harvard College reserves the right to withdraw an offer of admission under various conditions,” says the description of the Harvard College Class of 2021 official Facebook group, “including if an admitted student engages in behavior that brings into question his or her honesty, maturity, or moral character.”
Luca, who was in the first group, but not the second one, questioned the school’s decision to rescind offers.
“On the one hand, I think people can post whatever they want because they have the right to do that,” said the student to The Harvard Crimson. “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.”
But she said that the administration’s decision was warranted if the memes threatened the lives or well-being of members of the groups.
“I appreciate humor, but there are so many topics that just should not be joked about,” said Jessica Zhang, who was in the incriminating chat but did not post to it and did not have her admission offer revoked, to The Harvard Crimson. “I respect the decision of the admissions officers to rescind the offers because those actions really spoke about the students’ true characters.”
“I do not know how those offensive images could be defended,” she continued.
Last year, Class of 2020 students joked about race and feminism in a GroupMe chat. The university condemned the jokes, but took no punitive action.
“We do not comment publicly on the admissions status of individual applicants,” said Rachael Dane, Harvard’s associate director of communications, to The Daily Caller News Foundation.
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