Harvard rescinds acceptance letters for 10 students who shared vulgar memes in private chat

Harvard University revoked admissions offers from at least 10 incoming freshman students who posted “offensive” memes in a private chat group, a new report revealed.

The vulgar messages were shared in a private group called “Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens,” which was created in December, according to the Harvard Crimson, the university’s student-run newspaper. The memes mocked topics like sexual assault, minorities, the Holocaust, and pedophilia.

The chat group was born out of a roughly 100-person messaging group set up in early December by members of the Class of 2021 to share popular culture memes. Some members, however, soon suggested forming “a more R-rated” group, incoming freshman Cassandra Luca, who did not join the second group, told the Crimson.

Luca said students who wanted to join the “dark” chat group were first required to post provocative memes in the larger messaging group.

“They were like, ‘Oh, you have to send a meme to the original group to prove that you could get into the new one,’” she said. “This was a just-because-we-got-into-Harvard-doesn’t-mean-we-can’t-have-fun kind of thing.”

In mid-April, Harvard admissions officers contacted students involved in the second private chat group, asking them to disclose every image sent, one student, whose admission offer was revoked, told the student-run newspaper.

“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,” the university wrote in an email obtained by the Crimson. “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 continued.

About one week later, at least 10 incoming students who participated in the second messaging group received letters informing them that their admissions letters had been rescinded.

The description for the Harvard class of 2021, which is operated by the university’s admissions office, reminds students that administrators can withdraw offers “under various conditions.”

“As a reminder,” the description reads, “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.”

Luca told the Crimson she’s torn about Harvard’s decision to rescind the students’ acceptance letters.

“On the one hand, I think people can post whatever they want because they have the right to do that,” she said. “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.”

Other incoming students, though, were confident the university made the right decision.

“I appreciate humor, but there are so many topics that just should not be joked about,” Jessica Zhang said. “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 said.

This is the second time in two years Harvard has dealt with a situation like this. Last year, members of the class of 2020 exchanged offensive jokes about race and feminism in an unofficial GroupMe chat. The university, however, took no action against the incoming students.

Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons said at the time they “were troubled and disappointed to see a conversation that included graphics with offensive themes.”

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