It’s amazing that 10 high school seniors smart enough to get into Harvard were also dumb enough to join a Facebook chat group called “Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens.” According to the Harvard Crimson and other published reports, at least 10 acceptance letters for the Class of 2021 were rescinded after admissions investigated a tip that some incoming students were exchanging disturbing memes and images in a private Facebook chat room.
One can safely assume that the 10 now-uninvited students were among the top seniors of their high school graduating classes. This makes their willingness to go to a very dark place to amuse each other in a dark corner of Facebook all the more inexplicable. Among the subjects the students joked about in the chat group include the Holocaust, the death of children, sexual assault, the titillation that comes from hurting children and the denigration of racial minorities.
It didn’t take long for news to trickle back to admissions that empathy-deprived freshmen were giving the school a bad name months before stepping foot on campus. Each of the students was contacted by the university and asked to explain their contribution to the discussion. They were also told not to attend the mixer for incoming Harvard students held in late spring because their status was being re-evaluated by the school.
After an investigation, Harvard rescinded the acceptance letters of the 10 students, citing its right to withdraw offers if students engage in “behavior that brings into question his or her honesty, maturity or moral character.”
Young people have been doing silly things since the dawn of civilization. Today’s technology provides more avenues for mischief and the illusion of privacy. Harvard has been criticized in some quarters for coming down too hard on these kids, who could point to similar online behavior by members of the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Yet those grown-up Marines and Pennsylvania jurists got into a heap of trouble. Harvard, whose mission is “to educate the citizens and citizen-leaders for our society,” has a role to play in setting standards. It was right not to cut this gang of 10 any slack.