Harvard University has reportedly rescinded at least 10 admission offers into its fall freshman class after learning prospective students traded sexually explicit and offensive messages in an online Facebook chat.
The Harvard Crimson, the school's daily student newspaper, said students traded obscene messages in the group that was reportedly formed in December and at one point titled "Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens." University officials declined to provide the paper with comment on the admission statuses, but The Crimson – citing a chat member who had their admission offer revoked – reported the university rescinded offers around mid-April.
Citing obtained screenshots, The Crimson said some posts mocked sexual assault, the Holocaust and the deaths of children, with one calling the hypothetical hanging of a Mexican child "piñata time." Some of the postings joked that abusing children was sexually arousing.
Harvard pared down nearly 40,000 applicants to admit 2,056 students into its Class of 2021. About 84 percent of those admitted students accepted the offer.
The private chat featuring offensive messages reportedly was formed by prospective students who got in touch with each other via the official College Admissions & Financial Aid Office-managed Harvard Facebook group for the Class of 2021. Posting in college social media groups is common practice among newly admitted students, and Harvard's Facebook group notes that the admissions office is "not responsible for any unofficial groups, chats or the content within."
"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," the group's description reads.
The official group has just more than 1,500 members. But what first was a roughly 100-member spin-off group where students shared popular memes – or viral images that span the internet – splintered once more into a third, much darker offshoot.
Incoming student Cassandra Luca, who joined the first meme group but not the second, said that founders of the second meme group "demanded that students post provocative memes in the larger messaging group before allowing them to join the splinter group," according to The Crimson.
"They were like, 'Oh, you have to send a meme to the original group to prove that you could get into the new one,'" Luca told the paper. "This was a just-because-we-got-into-Harvard-doesn't-mean-we-can't-have-fun kind of thing."
The Crimson reported that university officials have said in the past that Harvard's decision to rescind a student's offer is final.