Harvard Yanks 10 Acceptance Letters Over Offensive Facebook Posts

June 5, 2017, 1:45 PM UTC

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According to the Harvard Crimson, the Ivy League university has rescinded offers of acceptance to at least 10 incoming freshman for the class of 2021, following an investigation into the messages they posted in a private Facebook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.

The university did not explain the decision to rescind the offers, saying it does not comment publicly on the admission of individual applicants. But a school policy states that Harvard reserves the right to withdraw its offers of acceptance if an “admitted student engages in behavior that brings into question his or her honesty, maturity, or moral character.”

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The reaction to Harvard’s decision on social media has so far been largely positive, as Twitter users praised the school for drawing a line, and offered little sympathy for the students:

Others saw the incident as a cautionary tale and a reminder that students should be careful about what they post to social media:

Meanwhile, others wondered if Harvard had gone too far given that the offensives memes had been shared in a private Facebook group. One incoming freshman described the group to the Crimson by saying, “This was a just-because-we-got-into-Harvard-doesn’t-mean-we-can’t-have-fun kind of thing.”

University officials learned about the group from students who told them about its contents. In response, they emailed the students in April, asking them to disclose every picture they submitted to the group as well as a statement explaining their contributions.

“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,” said a portion of the email sent out by an administrator, adding “It is unfortunate that I have to reach out about this situation.”

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