Incoming Harvard freshman have admission rescinded over offensive memes

- The memes and messages that cost ten would-be Harvard freshman their Ivy League careers range from incendiary to obscene.

According to the Harvard Crimson a few of the messages claim “abusing children was sexually arousing,” others directed jokes at specific racial and ethnic groups, while some mocked the Holocaust and sexual assault. In one message an incoming freshman “called the hypothetical hanging of a Mexican child ‘piñata time.’”

The messages were exchanged in a private chat inside Harvard’s official Class of 2021 Facebook group.

“It’s moronic, it’s infantile, it’s juvenile and it’s very troubling,” Marshall Tanick, an attorney with Hellmuth & Johnson in Edina, Minn., said.

Tanick nonetheless maintains there does remain a chance these students would challenge their acceptance revocation in court.

“The likelihood of a challenge is probably slim but if it were brought there’s a possibility a student could prevail in a legal challenge,” he said. “Harvard says they have certain criteria that allows them to do this such as moral character, honesty and maturity but those clauses are pretty vague and ambiguous and it could be that a student can challenge there denial of admission on grounds that the standards are too vague and too ambiguous."

Tanick also believes the students could assert that the policy is improper because admissions were rescinded in a manner inconsistent with the way the students were accepted.

“Harvard is a private institution so students don’t have as many rights relative to a private institution as they do a public institution. It might be different if it was a public school,” Tanick noted.

“I would rescind their applications if I heard that stuff,” Ryan Lo, a University of Minnesota junior, said. “They’re not acceptable by anyone’s standards really."

Yet those behind the offensive messages have plenty of reasons to refrain from legal action.

“It’s costly, it takes a long time and it would require identification of students," Tanick said. "So most students, if they can’t work out some arrangement with Harvard on the side, might decide to move on with their lives.” 

Moving on, however, may not be so easy to do after such a hard lesson learned.

“It may really be a stigma that prevents them, impedes them from getting into other schools,” Tanick added.

Tanick expects many other schools, even public institutions, could soon follow Harvard’s lead and establish similar clauses that would make for some serious consequences for any student who speaks, types and behaves in such an unfettered manner.

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