Harvard University has reversed its decision to offer places at the college for at least 10 prospective students of the Class of 2021 after they posted controversial memes on social media.
A number of the students, who already had accepted spots in the freshman class at Harvard, confessed to creating a Facebook group for the incoming students that was at one point named “Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens.” That’s what led Harvard to withdraw the offers, The Harvard Crimson reported.
Students inside the group were sharing memes and images that made fun of sexual assault, the Holocaust, and the deaths of the children, according to the student publication. The messages also included jokes about ethnic or racial groups, and one person called the imaginary hanging of a Mexican child “piñata time.”
Harvard rescinded admissions offers to at least 10 prospective students back in April after it was made aware of the controversial images and messages, according to a few members of the group.
The online meme group attracted about 100 Harvard students, who met each other using the official Harvard University group on Facebook.
Jessica Zhang, an admitted student at Harvard who joined both official and unofficial groups of future Harvard students, said: “A lot of students were excited about forming group chats with people who shared similar interests.”
“Someone posted about starting a chat for people who liked memes.”
She claimed that the majority of the content in the group was “lighthearted,” but soon enough the students proposed starting another group, this time “more R-rated.”
Cassandra Luca, a member of the original non-provocative meme group, said creators of the “dark” group asked other students to share controversial images and captions in other large groups before they could join the 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.”
A student, who was part of the provocative group and saw his admission offer rescinded, told The Crimson that Harvard officials approached the incoming students from the group in April, demanding they show all content shared in the group.
The email to a student read:
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.
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.
Luca claimed she wasn’t sure Harvard was right to reverse their decision to offer a place at university. “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.”
The prospective student, however, suggested that if the memes posted in the group threatened the well-being of others, then the university’s decision is justifiable.
Zhang, meanwhile, said the students’ behavior was indefensible. “I appreciate humor, but there are so many topics that just should not be joked about,” she said.
“I respect the decision of the admissions officers to rescind the offers because those actions really spoke about the students’ true characters,” she continued. “I do not know how those offensive images could be defended.”
This isn’t the first time Harvard has battled students’ actions on the Internet. Last year, several members of the Class of 2020 joked about race and mocked feminists in a group chat. The university released a statement condemning the behavior, but didn’t discipline the students, saying the people weren’t “matriculated students at this point.”