The country’s oldest university revoked admission offers for at least ten prospective undergraduate students because they shared discriminatory and vulgar memes in a Facebook group chat for accepted students.
Harvard University’s student paper The Harvard Crimson reported yesterday (June 5) that administrators rescinded the offers in mid-April after discovering the private chat and its contents. Anonymously cited incoming freshman told The Crimson that the chat, once titled "Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens," grew out of a larger pop culture meme-sharing group whose members connected via the undergraduate Harvard College’s Class of 2021 Facebook page.
The Crimson obtained, but did not publicly release, screenshots from the private chat that featured "memes and other images mocking sexual assault, the Holocaust and the deaths of children," as well as people of color. One message referred to a Mexican child’s theoretical hanging as "piñata time."
One admitted student told The Crimson that the chat’s moderators allowed others to join only after posting offensive images in the larger meme 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."
The Crimson did not explain how administrators discovered the splinter group or its contents, and a Harvard College spokesperson told the paper on Saturday (June 3) that "we do not comment publicly on the admissions status of individual applicants."
Admissions employees reportedly emailed the students in question and demanded they disclose every photo sent in the chat and offer statements explaining their participation:
"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," reads a copy of the Admissions Office’s 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."
One anonymously cited and now-rejected student says the university administrators also instructed the students not to come to Harvard’s late-April admitted students weekend. At least ten people received letters by mid-April that revoked their admission offers.
Harvard faced a similar controversy last year, when The Crimson reported that the university uncovered a GroupMe chat where prospective students traded racist and sexist content. Unlike this year, the university did not revoke those students’ offers.