At least 10 prospective members of Harvard’s Class of 2021 saw their Ivy League dreams crumble when the university rescinded their offers after finding the teens had shared sexually explicit and offensive memes.
The memes were primarily sent as messages last December in a private Facebook group called “Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens,” an offshoot chat formed through the university’s official Class of 2021 Facebook group. Some of the images mocked sexual assault, the Holocaust and deaths of children, including one that characterized the hypothetical hanging of a Mexican child as “piñata time” — according to screenshots obtained by the Harvard Crimson.
“A lot of the students were excited about forming group chats with people who shared similar interests,” freshman Jessica Zhang, who joined both groups, told the student newspaper. “Someone posted about starting a chat for people who liked memes.”
Messages exchanged in the original group were primarily “lightheaded,” according to Zhang, who was not among the students busted for posting the tasteless memes, the Crimson reports.
One member of the tasteless chat whose admission was revoked by Harvard said university employees reached out in April to ask for them to disclose every meme they traded in the group.
“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 message read, according to the student who spoke to the student newspaper on condition of anonymity. “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.
“It is unfortunate that I have to reach out about this situation,” the email continued.
Students were told their admissions status was under review and not to attend Harvard’s annual weekend for prospective freshmen held at the end of April. About a week later, at least 10 members of the group were told their admission offers had been withdrawn.
Students interviewed by the student newspaper said they had mixed feelings on the punishment.
“On the one hand, I think people can post whatever they want because they have the right to do that,” incoming freshman Cassandra Luca said. “I don’t think the school should have gone in and rescinded some offers because it wasn’t Harvard-affiliated, it was people doing stupid stuff.”
But a lot of them agreed that the prospective students had crossed a line.
“I appreciate humor, but there are so many topics that just should not be joked about,” Zhang wrote the newspaper. “I respect the decision of the admissions officers to rescind the offers because those actions really spoke about the students’ true characters.”
Wyatt Hurt, a member of the Class of 2021 who did not participate in either chat, said he was also glad Harvard responded to offensive memes.
“I haven’t seen any of the stuff firsthand, but I definitely think that the administration made the right choice and I think that as an incoming student — we all have our group chats and everything like that going on — we all pretty much universally agree it was the right decision,” he said.
A Harvard spokeswoman declined to comment on the admissions status of individual applicants. The university admitted just 5.2 percent of applicants to the Class of 2021, or 2,056 people from nearly 40,000 applications. About 84 percent of the students accepted to the university took the offer, the highest yield rate in recent years, according to the Crimson.