CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – At least 10 prospective members of Harvard College’s Class of 2021 received letters from the school’s admissions office rescinding their acceptance over their activities on Facebook.
The incoming freshmen allegedly posted sexually explicit memes and messages through the group page “Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens” that targeted minorities and mocked sexual assault, the Holocaust and deaths of children, The Harvard Crimson reports.
“Some of the messages joked that abusing children was sexually arousing, while others had punchlines directed at specific ethnic or racial groups,” according to the news site. “One called the hypothetical hanging of a Mexican child ‘pinata time.’”
The explicit Facebook page reportedly started from incoming students who met in the official Harvard College Class of 2021 Facebook formed another page to share memes.
“A lot of students were excited about forming group chats with people who shared similar interests,” incoming freshman Jessica Zhang wrote in an email. “Someone posted about starting a chat for people who liked memes.”
Members of the new meme group then formed “a more R-rated” meme group, and the founders of that group allegedly required members to post inappropriate memes on the original page to gain entry to the “dark” meme group, Cassandra Luca, who joined the first meme group but not the second, told the Crimson.
“They were like, ‘Oh, you have to send a meme to the original group to prove that you could get into the new one,” Luca said. “This was a just-because-we-got-into-Harvard-doesn’t-mean-we-can’t-have-fun kind of thing.”
Harvard spokeswoman Rachael Dane told The Washington Post in an email Sunday that “we do not comment publicly on the admissions status of individual applicants,” but several students told the Crimson they received emails from admissions officials calling them out on their comments.
“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 email read. “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 read.
The school’s official Facebook group for the Class of 2021 features a disclaimer that states “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,” according to the Crimson.
And that’s exactly what administrators did.
At the end of April and early May, at least 10 students received letters withdrawing their admissions offer.
The Crimson reports virtually the same scenario played out last year, with incoming freshman with the Class of 2020 making jokes about race and feminists that prompted a public condemnation from school administrators but no formal action against the students involved.
Those responsible for the crass posts were “not matriculated students,” Interim Dean of Student Life Thomas A. Dingman said at the time.
“Harvard admitted 5.2 percent of applicants to the Class of 2021, accepting 2,056 of the nearly 40,000 total applicants,” the Crimson reports. “Roughly 84 percent of students invited to join the class accepted their offer, marking the highest yield rate in recent memory.”
Zhang told the news site she’s glad the school took action over the offensive memes.
“I appreciate humor, but there are so many topics that just should not be joked about,” Zhang wrote. “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 added.
Luca thinks school officials may have over-reacted.
“On the one hand, I think people can post whatever they want because they have the right to do that,” Luca 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.”