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Harvard Takes Back Admission for New Students Over Racist Memes

© REUTERS / Jessica Rinaldi/FilesA student walks through Harvard Yard at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in this file photo taken November 16, 2012
A student walks through Harvard Yard at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in this file photo taken November 16, 2012 - Sputnik International
At least ten prospective students of Harvard University’s class of 2021 have had their admission offers rescinded for taking part in a Facebook group chat where they traded racist, Islamophobic and sexually explicit images.

The Facebook group, at one time called "Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens," featured students sending each other images and memes making light of the Holocaust, sexual assault and the death of children, according to the Harvard Crimson.

One post mocked the notion of hanging a Mexican child as "pinata time," while another joked about sexual arousal as a result of child abuse. Harvard administrators rescinded offers for at least ten students in mid-April, after they became aware of the group. 

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The former prospects were also one-time members of a messaging group for members of the class of 2021. First connecting through the official Harvard College Class of 2021 Facebook group, this 100-member group was set up in December and was mostly used to share pop culture memes.

Incoming freshman Jessica Zhang was a part of both groups and said, "A lot of students were excited about forming group chats with people who shared similar interests … Someone posted about starting a chat for people who liked memes."

She said that the group was "lighthearted" at first, but Cassandra Luca, another class of 2021 member, said that eventually some people suggested creating a chat group for memes that were "more R-rated."

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A person wanting to join this new group would have to first post a suggestive meme in the larger group.

Luca said, "They were like, 'Oh, you have to send a meme to the original group to prove that you could get into the new one … This was a just-because-we-got-into-Harvard-doesn’t-mean-we-can’t-have-fun kind of thing."

Once the offending students were caught, they were sent an email by the admissions office asking them to divulge every image they sent to 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," that email read. "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," the Crimson reported

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Wyatt Hurt, another incoming freshman, said, "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."

A similar story unfolded at the prestigious Ivy-League school last spring, when members of the class of 2020 formed a GroupMe chat group to make sexist and racist jokes.

"Obviously for these Harvard kids I expected a higher level of decency, and although none of the memes targeted any of my personal demographics, I did still find the memes offensive," Harvard junior Saul Urbina-Johanson told Buzzfeed, adding that "There's a broader desensitization to these types of memes, so while I found it alarming that these were future classmates posting these, I was not as surprised as I should have been."

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