Harvard has expelled at least 10 students after they reportedly posted “obscene memes” on a private page on Facebook.
According to the Harvard newspaper, Crimson, at least ten students were expelled after they posted obscene memes joking about sexual assault, the Holocaust, paedophilia and child abuse. The group also reportedly wrote racial slurs targeted at minorities.
The ten students were yet to start their freshman year at Harvard. The posts were on a private chat on Facebook. The private chat was created by a group of people who were interested in creating memes that showed more “adult” material than is regularly seen in the “main chat room.”
An incoming freshman also said that some of the students had screen-grabbed the offensive memes and emailed them to the university. The Crimson also mentioned that the university emailed the students in response to their memes in mid-April:
“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,” it says. “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.”
Harvard administrators soon discovered the offshoot group, started an investigation and began asking students about how they contributed to the group. A week following the investigation, “at least 10” of the group members had their Harvard admission offers withdrawn. In the Crimson report, a Harvard spokeswoman said that the university “did not comment publicly on the admissions status of individual applications.”
Criticisms of the Decision
Some advocates for free speech have criticized Harvard’s decision, claiming that it was a “draconian” punishment. Professor Alan Dershowitz from Harvard’s Law School, said that their decision to withdraw their admission offers was going too far. According to The Guardian, he said Harvard “intruded too deeply” in students’ private lives, claiming that their communications are protected by laws of free speech.
He claimed that a punishment like this could “affect them for life.”