Thursday, June 08, 2017

Harvard revokes admission to at least 10 students for offensive Facebook posts

Parents spend years warning their children about the consequences of posting offensive messages and photos on social media. The situation unfolding at Harvard right now might be the ultimate case study.

At least 10 high school seniors who were admitted to Harvard this spring had that acceptance yanked after administrators discovered deeply offensive messages and racist images they posted to a Facebook group chat.

Among the students who lost their seats at Harvard College is the daughter of major donors to the university, according to correspondence reviewed by the Globe.

Screenshots of some of the images and messages, posted on The Tab, a news website about universities, show the students mocking sexual assault, the Holocaust, minorities, suicide, and child abuse.

According to the Harvard Crimson, which first reported the story, the group was called, at least temporarily, “Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens.”

After someone alerted the admissions office about the controversial posts, Harvard asked the students responsible for the materials to each submit a statement to explain their actions, according to a copy of an e-mail from an admissions officer to a student that was reviewed by the Globe.

Harvard College declined to comment on the admissions status of individual applicants. A spokeswoman said the school reserves the right to withdraw an admission offer for a variety of reasons, including if the student engages in behavior “that brings into question their honesty, maturity, or moral character.”

According to one student, events unfolded like this: Last winter, Harvard created a special Facebook group for undergraduate applicants who had been accepted under the college’s “early action” program.

Eventually, that student formed a group chat for students to talk and post memes, which are often humorous videos or images created on a computer and shared quickly over the Internet.

The student said he created the first group as a lighthearted forum for students to chat about Harvard.

The group grew, and some students began posting offensive memes, said the student, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Those students then created a separate group chat where they began to post the offensive messages, he said.

The leaders of the second group made a rule that, in order to join, a student had to first post an offensive meme in the first group, the student said. He said he was not a member of the second group, which grew to about 15 members, but did see images posted in the first group.

“Obviously I was surprised — I left the chat — that there were future classmates that would be willing to post these types of memes or content, but in retrospect I was not as surprised as I thought I would be,” said the student.

The student said that during the past year he has witnessed many types of hate speech proliferate. He thinks he and his fellow high school seniors have become desensitized. A lot of students who posted offensive messages did so out of peer pressure, he said, because they wanted to be accepted to the second group chat.

At the same time, the student said he thinks the administration took the right step.

“I am glad, though, that they did take some sort of strict action on it,” he said.

Other students echoed his opinion. Matthew Miller, an admitted student from Illinois, said he was sad that his potential classmates posted “such offensive and hurtful content.”

“I, as well as many future classmates I’ve talked to, feel that the university made the right choice,” said Miller, who said he did not see the images.

But not everyone praised the way administrators responded.

Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor emeritus and civil liberties advocate, said the college’s actions establish a dangerous precedent.

“Punishing students academically for their political views or their personal values is a serious mistake,” Dershowitz said, adding that he did not see the memes and had no first-hand knowledge of the situation. “These actions are not consistent with the spirit of the First Amendment.”

He said it might have been better to admit the students then require them to discuss their posts with an adviser.

“Judging other people’s humor, even in the worst taste, just strikes me as somewhat dangerous,” said Dershowitz.



Bird of Paradise said...

Just think of the millians of dollars saved if we totaly defuned these Universities and Collages and fired their liberal administraors and professors

Anonymous said...


Think of all the electrons we could save if you were educated about places like Harvard which has endowments and could survive without government support.

It is interesting that on a site devoted to free speech you want to silence voices and ideas with which you disagree.

(By the way, I don't see a need to defund the making of art from multiple pictures. I wonder why you hate collages so much?)

Anonymous said...

“Judging other people’s humor, even in the worst taste, just strikes me as somewhat dangerous,” said Dershowitz.

Dershowitz is a Liberal idiot !

Anonymous said...

I don't think the university was judging the kids' humor. They were judging their character, something that happens all too rarely these days. These kids just learned an important lesson, though a little late: there are consequences for your actions. Yes, we all have free speech and can say whatever vile thing that comes to mind. But that freedom includes the requirement of being responsible for that speech and how it affects others. Finally, a university did something right!

Spurwing Plover the fighting shorebird said...

Our universities and collages being run by the liberal left

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:57,

You make an interesting point. The issue, however, goes a little bit deeper than your analysis.

But that freedom includes the requirement of being responsible for that speech and how it affects others.

Assuming that this is true, (and it is debatable that it is not) how was anyone affected by the memes that the kids posted in a private Facebook group?

Secondly, if the standard is "how it affects others," should we therefore ban speech on campus that for example seeks higher wages for workers? Speech that promotes equality in the workplace? If the standard is "how speech affects others," we should shut down all colleges and especially Harvard because the exchange of ideas is always going to affect someone.

I know that what you are really trying to say is that people should be responsible for speech that negatively affects others, but who is the judge of that? (Especially absent of any actual harm.) Who gets to decide what is negative harm to someone? In an extreme example, it can be argued that people who argued for the abolition of slavery affected the slave owners. I don't think anyone would argue that the issue of slavery 150+ years ago needed to have vigorous voices and discussions, but if we judge speech on how it "affects" people, then we have to ban all speech.

The real problem with Harvard's position is that at this year's commencement ceremony, the President of Harvard cited the need for diverse ideas and said:

“We must remember that limiting some speech opens the dangerous possibility that the speech that is ultimately censored may be our own. “If some words are to be treated as equivalent to physical violence and silenced or even prosecuted, who is to decide which words? Freedom of expression, as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously said long ago, protects not only free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought we hate. We need to hear those hateful ideas so our society is fully equipped to oppose and defeat them.”

It almost seems that the admissions office acted against the statement and principles put forth by President Drew Faust doesn't it?

Certainly Harvard has the right to say "we don't want someone on campus," but in many ways this case shows a bit of hypocrisy on the part of Harvard and sends a chilling message to prospective applicants of "beware what you say, for we may find it offensive."

As Faust said, we should all be careful of supporting the suppression of speech because eventually the suppressors will come after you.

Anonymous said...

Spurwing / Sock Puppet BoP,

Can you please explain how liberals are "running" artwork?