Why Harvard is Saying Not So Fast to at Least 10 Students They Admitted

June 5th 2017

Almie Rose

Harvard University is taking a stand against hate speech.

The Harvard Crimson reported on Sunday that Harvard College is rescinding acceptance for "at least ten prospective members of the Class of 2021" after it was revealed the prospective students posted hateful memes and jokes in a private Harvard Facebook group.

"Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens" was the name of the group.

And the memes went beyond typical funny internet humor into something far darker. As The Crimson reports:

"In the group, students sent each other memes and other images mocking sexual assault, the Holocaust, and the deaths of children, according to screenshots of the chat obtained by The Crimson. Some of the messages joked 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 publication adds that the decision to rescind admission is final. An email from the admissions department quoted by Crimson revealed the admissions committee targeted the students who posted the offensive content.

"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 reads. "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."

A week later, the students' admissions were rescinded. 

People sounded off on the decision on Facebook and on the Crimson's page.

Some were seemingly against the decision.

crimson comment

Ranier Maningding, of the popular The Love Life of an Asian Guy Facebook page, explains why Harvard's decision actually was "solid."

"THANK YOU, Harvard University!" he begins. He continues:

"These little shits need to understand that jokes about genocide, abuse, and racial violence aren't funny, and you deserve to have your ticket to higher learning stripped from your keyboard warrior hands.

You wanna start a racist meme page? Be my guest, but don't think for a second your administrators and employers aren't watching, because they're well within reason to drop your sorry ass."

The majority of comments appear to agree:




Freedom of Speech doesn't protect a person from any consequence.

Freedom of Speech guarantees protection against the government; it doesn't mean that you can say whatever you want to and not be held accountable. The United States Courts offers some examples, including, "Freedom of speech does not include the right: 

  • To incite actions that would harm others (e.g., “[S]hout[ing] ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.”). Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919).
  • To make or distribute obscene materials. Roth v. United States, 354 U.S. 476 (1957).
  • To permit students to print articles in a school newspaper over the objections of the school administration. Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260 (1988).
  • Of students to make an obscene speech at a school-sponsored event. Bethel School District #43 v. Fraser, 478 U.S. 675 (1986)."

A popular webcomic by xkcd was shared on Maningding's page to highlight the issue of Free Speech in this case:

free speech comic

Harvard Admissions has the right to rescind admissions if they feel students have not exemplified the "behavior" they require.

Rachael Dane, the college spokesperson, told The Washington Post via email about Harvard's admission policies. The Post explains, "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.'"

There is an official Harvard Facebook Group for the class of 2021, which also makes the Harvard policy clear with this note:

"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."

There seems to have been a rise as of late of people emboldened by hate speech and hate crimes.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has been tracking hate groups, and reports there are currently 917 hate groups in the United States.

While it's unknown if some of these students were operating from hate groups, there has been such a drastic rise in hate speech online that some social media platforms, as of December, are making more of an effort to ban hate speech from their services, SPLC reported.

Twitter permanently suspended Milo Yiannopoulos in July 2016, with a spokesperon telling BuzzFeed, "people should be able to express diverse opinions and beliefs on Twitter. But no one deserves to be subjected to targeted abuse online, and our rules prohibit inciting or engaging in the targeted abuse or harassment of others."

Now that Harvard has taken a stand, it may only be a matter of time for other colleges and universities to follow suit.