By GABRIELA SANTOS
Harvard University has chosen to rescind acceptance offers from 10 incoming freshman after becoming aware of an offshoot face group aimed at sharing “offensive” memes.
School administrators moderate an official Harvard Class of 2021 Facebook group in an effort to create a place for new students to get to know each other beforehand and ask questions in preparation for their first semester
Everything began when about 100 students created a separate page to share memes with one another – a trend amongst elite colleges. The page was entitled “Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens.”
According to the Harvard Crimson, the school’s daily newspaper, the whole exchange took a dark turn when members of this group formed a spin-off page where students could exchange “R-rated” memes.
The founders of the group required that students posted questionable memes on the main page to gain admittance. Otherwise, the page is completely private.
The memes and images that were shared in the private group ranged from offensive racial stereotypes to the deaths of children, according the images provided by The Crimson. When university officials became aware of what was going on they took immediate action.
Harvard reserves the right to withdraw an offer of admission if the admitted student “engages or has engaged in behavior that brings into question their honesty, maturity or moral character,” among other conditions, Rachel Dane, a Harvard spokeswoman, told The Washington Post.
This reaction brings to light a whole new issue that has been growing in recent years – that social media is playing a large role in the university admissions process.
The reoccurring question seems to be that at which point does this violate freedom of expression?
Erica Goldberg, an assistant professor at Ohio Northern law school, which said she taught at Harvard Law School for three years, stated that this page was no different than the popular game Cards Against Humanity, “whose purpose is to be as clearly offensive as possible”.
The group – which garnered more than 30,000 members, including “pharmabro” Martin Shkreli – seems to clearly be aimed at poking fun at these topics and not necessarily supporting these sentiments.
News media coverage of this topic has mainly focused on how this offensive material undermines the current “PC” culture at universities nationwide. The problem with reporting on these topics is, in fact, that it is done by older adults who unfortunately don’t understand the irreverent humor.
The headlines repeatedly use words like “hateful” and “racist” to describe the pages but they fail to recognize that the whole point of these memes is to not embrace these ideals but to laugh at the absurdity that anyone could actually believe these kinds of things.
Instead of demonizing these teens for their jokes, perhaps the news media should be focusing more on how appropriate it is that they are being reprimanded for conversations made in private.