Harvard University may well be the most prestigious college in North America. It’s definitely one of the most prestigious. For a high school senior, an acceptance letter from Harvard is the culmination of a lifetime of hard work and dedication.
So imagine the shock ten families must have gone through when they learned those acceptance letters were being rescinded.
They posted memes about rape and dead children and the Holocaust. They joked that hanging a Mexican child should be called “pinata time.” And now Harvard has decided it doesn’t want them anymore.
According to the Harvard Crimson, the Ivy League university has rescinded offers of acceptance to at least 10 incoming freshman for the class of 2021, following an investigation into the messages they posted in a private Facebook group:
A handful of admitted students formed the messaging group—titled, at one point, “Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens”—on Facebook in late December, according to two incoming freshmen.
In the group, students sent each other memes and other images mocking sexual assault, the Holocaust, and the deaths of children, according to screenshots of the chat obtained by The Crimson. Some of the messages joked that abusing children was sexually arousing, while others had punchlines directed at specific ethnic or racial groups. One called the hypothetical hanging of a Mexican child “piñata time.”
The Facebook group in question reportedly came about after some students last December started an obscene version of another Facebook group devoted to funny memes. The students in both groups met each other through an official Facebook group run by Harvard for newly admitted students.
I’m not about to defend the memes. For one, I haven’t seen them. For another, I don’t know these students. I don’t know if they simply have dark senses of humor or whether they genuinely believe these things. I simply don’t have enough information to actually offer commentary on what these students actually said or did.
What I do have concerns about is that Harvard decided to rescind letters of acceptance based on what transpired in a private group. Even if these were the most tasteless, classless things imaginable, unless they violated the law in some manner, it seems wholly inappropriate to punish these kids for something that was done out of the public eye. While many are applauding Harvard’s decision, I think that this is more disturbing. The school claims that several students contacted them with information about the contents of this private group–a group that was not officially associated with Harvard–and the school proceeded to ask for details. None of this was public or publicly accessible, meaning that Harvard isn’t protecting its image. It’s punishing kids for thinking the wrong things
It’s easy to look at people accepted to Harvard as privileged brats unworthy of sympathy, which may have motivated some of the animosity directed towards these kids. However, let’s also remember that this is the kind of attitude that exists at schools throughout the country.
For many, they see this as a lesson for these kids that certain kinds of humor aren’t appreciated. More likely they’ll learn to be careful about whom to trust.
Not necessarily a bad lesson.