At The Game in 2004, Yalies tricked Harvard fans into holding up signs creating this message.”
The Crimson reports:
Harvard College rescinded admissions offers to at least ten prospective members of the Class of 2021 after the students traded sexually explicit memes and messages that sometimes targeted minority groups [i.e., Jokes] in a private Facebook group chat.
A handful of admitted students formed the messaging groupâ€”titled, at one point, â€œHarvard memes for horny bourgeois teensâ€â€”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 â€œpiÃ±ata time.â€
After discovering the existence and contents of the chat, Harvard administrators revoked admissions offers to at least ten participants in mid-April, according to several members of the group. University officials have previously said that Harvardâ€™s decision to rescind a studentâ€™s offer is final. …
The chat grew out of a roughly 100-member messaging group that members of the Class of 2021 set up in early December to share memes about popular culture. Admitted students found and contacted each other using the official Harvard College Class of 2021 Facebook group.
â€œA lot of students were excited about forming group chats with people who shared similar interests,â€ Jessica Zhang â€™21, an incoming freshman who joined both chats, wrote in an email. â€œSomeone posted about starting a chat for people who liked memes.â€
Messages shared in the original group were mostly â€œlighthearted,â€ wrote Zhang, who said she did not post in the splitoff meme group and that her admission offer was not rescinded. But some members soon suggested forming â€œa more R-ratedâ€ meme chat, according to Cassandra Luca â€™21, who joined the first meme group but not the second, and who also said her offer was not revoked.
Luca said the founders of the â€œdarkâ€ group chat demanded that students post provocative memes in the larger messaging group before allowing them to join the splinter group.
â€œThey were like, â€˜Oh, you have to send a meme to the original group to prove that you could get into the new one,â€™â€ Luca said. â€œThis was a just-because-we-got-into-Harvard-doesnâ€™t-mean-we-canâ€™t-have-fun kind of thing.â€
Employees in the Admissions Office emailed students who posted offensive memes in mid-April asking them to disclose every picture they sent over the group, according to one member of the chat whose admission offer was revoked. The student spoke only on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to be publicly identified with the messages.
â€œThe 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,â€ reads a copy of the Admissions Officeâ€™s email obtained by The Crimson. â€œAs 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.â€
â€œIt is unfortunate that I have to reach out about this situation,â€ the email reads.
The anonymous student also said that administrators informed implicated students that their admissions status was under review and instructed them not to come to Visitas, Harvardâ€™s annual weekend of programming for prospective freshmen held at the end of April. Roughly a week later, at least ten members of the group chat received letters informing them that their offers of admission had been withdrawn.
The description for the official Facebook group for the Class of 2021, set up and maintained by the Admissions Office, disclaims all administrative responsibility for â€œunofficial groupsâ€ and warns members their admissions offers can be rescinded under specific circumstances.
â€œAs 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,â€ the description reads.
Luca said she had mixed feelings about the administrationâ€™s move to revoke admissions offers. She said she was â€œgoing back and forthâ€ on the matter.
â€œOn the one hand, I think people can post whatever they want because they have the right to do that,â€ Luca said. â€œI donâ€™t think the school should have gone in and rescinded some offers because it wasnâ€™t Harvard-affiliated, it was people doing stupid stuff.â€
She added, though, that if memes sent over the chat posed any kind of threat to membersâ€™ lives or well-being, then she believed administratorsâ€™ actions were justified.
Other members of the Class of 2021 said they strongly supported the Admissions Officeâ€™s decision. Zhang wrote that she thought the studentsâ€™ actions were indefensible, and that the administration was correct in choosing to penalize those who posted obscene images.
â€œI appreciate humor, but there are so many topics that just should not be joked about,â€ Zhang wrote. â€œI respect the decision of the admissions officers to rescind the offers because those actions really spoke about the studentsâ€™ true characters.â€
â€œI do not know how those offensive images could be defended,â€ she added.
Wyatt Hurt â€™21, who said he did not participate in either meme chat, agreed and said he was glad administrators took action.
â€œI havenâ€™t seen any of the stuff firsthand, but I definitely think that the administration made the right choice and I think that as an incoming studentâ€”we all have our group chats and everything like that going onâ€”we all pretty much universally agree it was the right decision,â€ he said.
Hurt added that he recently attended several scholarship conferences and that students he met at those eventsâ€”many of whom he said planned to matriculate at Ivy League schoolsâ€”also agreed that â€œrescinding was definitely the way to go.â€
This incident marks the second time in two years that Harvard has dealt with a situation where incoming freshmen exchanged offensive messages online. Last spring, some admitted members of the Class of 2020 traded jokes about race and mocked feminists in an unofficial class GroupMe chat, prompting Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons â€™67 to issue a joint statement condemning the studentsâ€™ actions.
â€œHarvard College and the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid were troubled and disappointed to see a conversation that included graphics with offensive themes,â€ Khurana and Fitzsimmons wrote in their statement, which they posted on the Class of 2020â€™s Facebook page.
But administrators chose not to discipline members of the Class of 2020 who authored the messages. Then-Interim Dean of Student Life Thomas A. Dingman â€™67 said in an interview at the time that the individuals in question were â€œnot matriculated students at this point.
Where does Harvard get off investigating the content of teenage admittees’ jokes in a private group on social media?
This country needs a federal law absolutely protecting the privacy of all electronic communication, including both email and social media. Beyond that, email services and social media companies ought to be held liable when private communications are intruded upon with resulting injury to their owners.
One is inclined to advise those wronged ten students that they ought to consider themselves lucky that Fate has saved them from becoming members of that community of prigs and Pharisees in Cambridge. In a properly-run world, the president of Yale would respond by ordering letters of admission sent to each of those ten kids.