By Izzy Connors ’18
Harvard University has publicly announced that they have rescinded the admissions of 10 incoming freshman due to their involvement in a private Facebook messaging group that posted explicit and offensive memes.
According to the Harvard Crimson, the university’s daily student-run newspaper, in the group, which was started last December, “students sent each other memes and other images mocking sexual assault, the Holocaust, and the deaths of children.”
A similar scandal occurred at Staples High School earlier this year. The members of the “Staples Meme Page” posted R-rated images, some of which directly targeted minority groups. As a result, many who contributed to the inappropriate posts received in-school suspensions.
Harvard, however, took a much more serious approach upon seeing the contents of the Facebook group. The Admissions Office states their policy clearly in the Class of 2021 Facebook Group, “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.” After taking time to review the posts and the implicated students, the Admissions Office sent out letters informing the 10 students of the revocation of their acceptances.
Harvard’s firm response has made many Staples students question the response, or lack thereof, of the Staples administration in the wake of the Staples meme group. “If a school knows about their students doing something that extreme, they shouldn’t allow them to attend,” Alyssa Hyman ’18 said. “I do think Staples should have given the involved students a larger punishment.”
Bridget Mulloy ’19 agrees that Harvard’s actions “sent a clear message to students that what they post doesn’t go away. By the students using Harvard’s name in the group, Harvard 100 percent has the right to take action, as their reputation is at stake.” Although the members of the Staples meme page used the school’s name, Staples decided against any extreme consequences. Although Mulloy agrees with Hyman in that “more could have been done,” she understands “the administration giving people the benefit of the doubt.”
Others, however, believe that the actions taken by both Harvard and Staples, although they were different, were enough to hold the students accountable for their actions. “I think that the superintendent’s discretionary actions gave students the jolt that was necessary to prevent something like this from happening again,” Peter Clanton ’18 said. As for Harvard’s actions, Clanton agrees that “Harvard, being a private institution, has every right to rescind students who do not, in the admissions team’s mind, uphold the principle values of the university.”
To many people, both incidents bring attention to the underlying prejudices in society. “It is this type of behavior that gets brushed off and under-punished that leads to a society accepting of racism, sexism, islamophobia, by passing hate off as a joke,” Sarah Sherts ’18 said. Whether someone agrees with Harvard’s firm actions or not, they sent a clear message that inappropriate discriminatory comments will not be treated as a “joke” by the university.