Sexual assault and racism are never to be joked about, not especially when you’re about to enroll into an Ivy League school whose long history of excellence means it pays attention to the people it allows into its hallowed hallways.
Harvard University has revoked offers to at least 10 prospective students who apparently didn’t think taking the mickey out of these serious issues would land them in trouble. The students, Buzzfeed News reports, posted offensive content about a variety of sensitive matters in a private chat group of incoming freshmen.
According to The Harvard Crimson, which first broke the news, the students were sending each other memes and images mocking sexual assault, abuse on children, the Holocaust as well as messages targeting ethnic or racial groups in private group chats.
In an email to BuzzFeed News, Harvard spokesman Rachael Dane said the school did not comment publicly on the admissions status of individual applicants. She, however, emphasised Harvard “reserves the right to withdraw an offer of admission under the following conditions, which are clearly expressed to students upon their admission.”
I talked to the kid who started the "nice" Harvard meme chat that the racist chat grew out of https://t.co/8DAIL5VDm9
— Katie Notopoulos (@katienotopoulos) June 5, 2017
Students involved in this revoke are from the Ivy League’s official Facebook group chat for Class of 2021, where admitted students can find and contact each other.
From here, other private group chats sprung up, including one titled ““Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens”, which later led to its own private, more “wild” offshoot called “General F**kups” – this was the thread that led to the sharing of the offensive materials.
An incoming Harvard freshman who started the “horny bourgeois” group told Buzzfeed News:
“For the first, like, four months it was great. Just wholesome memes and discussions about life. Just like an open forum for people to chat.”
Then the materials started touching on subjects like the Holocaust (“Why don’t Jews eat pussy?” “Because it’s too close to the gas chamber”) and feeling aroused at a funeral or when you hear “your neighbour beating his kids”, according to a selection of screenshots published by The Tab.
Such obscene materials were apparently the “requirement” to join the “wilder” and more exclusive “General F**kups” chat group.
“They had to post one offensive meme in the normal chat so that way the other members of the dark chat had evidence to report each other if it all crumbled (which it did). Anything that was ‘wild,’ as they called it. So it ranged from memes that made fun of the Holocaust to people with disabilities. General stuff you’d find on 4chan honestly,” the incoming freshman said.
But by mid-April, school officials had caught a whiff of the group and issued letters to the students involved, asking for proof of everything they had posted in there.
“As we understand you were among the members contributing such material to this chat, we are asking you to submit a statement to us by tomorrow at noon to explain your contributions and actions for discussion with the Admissions Committee,” a snapshot of one of the email as published on Buzzfeed News read.
CNN noted the official Harvard College Class of 2021 Facebook group contains a disclaimer stating they will not be responsible for any “unofficial” groups, chats or content within, as well as a reminder Harvard reserves the right to “withdraw an offer of admission under various conditions”.
A university spokesman said one such condition was when an admitted student’s behaviour brought doubt to their “honesty, maturity or moral character”.
One student who saw the administrator’s show-cause email told Buzzfeed News he knew some of those who got their admission revoked were “of many different races, genders, or socioeconomic backgrounds.”
A screenshot of the “General F**kups” thread later also showed some of its members regretting the contents posted in the group and apologising, saying “Looking back, I realise the memes were in bad taste” and “I guess there is a ‘too far'”.