A Tough Lesson for Some High School Seniors

Harvard rescinded the acceptances for at least 10 students as a result of the students having traded sexually explicit memes and messages that sometimes targeted minority groups in a private Facebook group chat.

The chat grew out of a roughly 100-member messaging group that members of the Class of 2021 set up in early December to share memes about popular culture. Admitted students found and contacted each other using the official Harvard College Class of 2021 Facebook group.

The description for the official Facebook group for the Class of 2021, set up and maintained by the Admissions Office, disclaims all administrative responsibility for “unofficial groups” and warns members their admissions offers can be rescinded under specific circumstances.

As a reminder, Harvard College reserves the right to withdraw an offer of admission under various conditions including if an admitted student engages in behavior that brings into question his or her honesty, maturity, or moral character.”

When the University discovered the offensive memes, employees in the Admissions Office emailed students who posted such memes, asking them to disclose every picture they sent over the group, Here is an excerpt from that email:

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. 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.”

I can’t imagine getting such an email, either as a student who has just been accepted into one of the world’s greatest universities, or as the parent of one of these students.

These are students who have likely worked quite hard for the past four years of high school and were then rewarded for their efforts with an acceptance into Harvard. For the class of 2021, the acceptance rate was only 5.2%. I am also guessing that the parents of these students provided an environment that was conducive to learning, and helped in every way they could so that their son or daughter could achieve their dreams.

I am sure that the day the acceptance letter arrived there was a big celebration for the students and their family. And to then have that taken away – like I said, I can’t imagine what that must have been like. It had to be much worse than if the students had never been accepted in the first place.

So on the one hand, I can sympathize with these students; years of hard work ruined by a moment of indiscretion that perhaps does not reflect who you really are. But on the other hand, it’s a reminder that our actions have consequences, and we have to live with the results of our actions..

It’s a tough lesson, but it may be the most valuable one these students ever learn.

And one that did not require their attendance at Harvard after all.

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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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