Harvard University reportedly revoked admission offers to at least ten prospective students. This response came after it was discovered that incoming freshmen created a Facebook group in which sexually explicit and racially charged memes were traded.
It started out when members of the university’s Class of 2021 Facebook group started a separate group to share memes about popular culture. But things only went downhill from there. Some members of this group then decided to form a spinoff meme group at one point titled–“Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens,” according to an article published in the Harvard Crimson. Based on screenshots obtained by the publication, the prospective students “sent each other memes and other images mocking sexual assault, the Holocaust, and the deaths of children.” The messages went as far as joking 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 Crimson stated.
The original group for memes started out “lighthearted,” Jessica Zhang an incoming freshman wrote to The Crimson. “A lot of students were excited about forming group chats with people who shared similar interests,” Zhang said. But soon some members suggested forming “a more R-rated” meme chat, another student Cassandra Luca said. In order to join the second meme group, which Luca described as “dark”, founders demanded that students post provocative memes in the original meme group before given a pass to join. “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.
When university officials became aware of the group’s behavior in mid-April, administrators sent out letters to at least ten of the group chat participants informing them that their admission offers were revoked. A member of the meme group whose offer was revoked told the Crimson that administrators also emailed students who posted offensive memes, asking them to disclose every picture they sent over the group.
“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,” reads a copy of the Admissions Office’s email obtained by The Crimson. “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.
According to Harvard college admissions policies, the university reserves the right to withdraw an offer of admission if the admitted student “engages or has engaged in behavior that brings into question their honesty, maturity or moral character,” among other conditions, Rachael Dane, a Harvard spokeswoman told The Washington Post.
For the upcoming school year, Harvard admitted 5.2 percent of applicants to the class of 2021. The university accepted a little over 2,000 of its nearly 40,000 total applicants and of this roughly 84 percent invited to join accepted their offer.
The Class of 2021 Facebook group, from which the meme group was created, was set up and managed by the Admissions Office, who disclaimed all administrative responsibility. It states in its description it is “not responsible for any unofficial groups, chats, or the content within.” [and that] “As a reminder, 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,” the group description states.
This is the second time in two years the university has had to deal with situations regarding controversial messages. Last Spring, some members of the admitted members of the Class of 2020 traded jokes about race and mocked feminists in an unofficial Groupme Chat. However, the members did not receive repercussions as the members of the class of 2021, according to The Crimson. The Dean of the College and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid did, however, issue a joint statement condemning the students’ actions.
College meme groups on Facebook are an ongoing trend among Ivy League Students. These groups are popular among universities such as Harvard, Columbia, Princeton and many others.