Waitlisted by Harvard? Check your inbox — 10 freshmen lose spots over obscene FB messages

Taylor Rogers
John Harvard monument (c. 1884) by Daniel Chester French (Cambridge, Massachusetts).
John Harvard monument by Daniel Chester French. (Photo: Getty Images)

A record-breaking 39,506 students applied to join the Harvard Class of 2021 this fall. But at least 10 of the 2,056 students who received acceptance letters will have to make other plans after the university discovered a private Facebook group chat that contained obscene and offensive memes or images with snarky comments attached.

According to the Harvard Crimson, the university’s student newspaper, approximately 100 students formed a Facebook group chat to share pop culture memes in December, and the group later splintered into another, more vulgar group where jokes about sexual assault, the Holocaust and child abuse were shared. Screenshots of the group chat obtained by the Crimson also showed that members referred to the fictitious hanging of a Mexican child as “piñata time.”

The splinter group was entitled “Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens.”

The Crimson reports that the university rescinded its offers of admission to at least 10 students who were involved in the group chat. Harvard spokeswoman Rachael Dane told Yahoo News that the university does not comment on the admissions status of individual applicants.

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The college informs all students in their acceptance letters that Harvard reserves the right to revoke an offer of admission under different circumstances, including when a student’s actions cause the admissions committee to question that student’s character.

Harvard declined to describe how it discovered the students’ private messages.

This is not the first time that Harvard administrators have faced the issue of incoming students exchanging offensive messages, although the students involved in a similar incident last year were not punished, according to the Harvard Crimson.

It has become common practice for colleges to monitor the social media accounts of both their prospective and current students. Some schools, such as Samford University in Alabama, even ask for students’ usernames on their applications. Frequently, the content of students’ Instagram and Twitter pages damages their reputations with university officials. Forty-two percent of college admissions officers said that what they learn about applicants online negatively affects their chances of being accepted, according to a survey of college admissions officers conducted by Kaplan Test Prep.

The members of Harvard’s Class of 2021 who spoke with the Crimson had mixed responses to the decision to rescind students’ offers of admission based on their behavior online. Incoming freshman Jessica Zhang, who was a member of the group chat in question but was not among those punished, supports Harvard’s decision.

“I appreciate humor, but there are so many topics that just should not be joked about,” Zhang told the Crimson. “I respect the decision of the admissions officers to rescind the offers because those actions really spoke about the students’ true characters.”

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