At least 10 incoming Harvard students have had their scholarships revoked after the college discovered they had shared offensive memes with each other in a private Facebook group chat. The unidentified admitted students met online in the official Harvard College Class of 2021 Facebook group, but soon formed their own chat where they were found to be making jokes about sexual assault, race, child abuse, and several other taboo issues. Harvard administrators soon discovered the existence of the secret chat, at one point allegedly titled “Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens,” and the University rescinded the acceptances of a minimum of ten members of the group in mid-April.
This is not the first time colleges have punished students — or in this case, prospective students — for their online behavior. Back in 2015, two students were expelled from Colorado College for their offensive behavior on Yik-Yak, an anonymous messaging app for college students, as they similarly posted material that was deemed offensive. Paige Shoemaker was kicked out of Kansas State University after a Snapchat image of her was discovered with her and an unidentified friend wearing dark facial masks along with the caption: “Finally feels good to be a n—a.”
What the prospective students posted was obviously heinous and inexcusable. But, for the most part, it seems motivated by a desire to fit in more than any legitimate malice. It’s easy to forget that these are just kids, some of them not even 18, and they made some dumb decisions. In other words, the whole situation illustrates the need for teenagers to educated on social media etiquette and the potential consequences of their online action. None of this is to say the students in question should be excused for their actions, but as kids now are online earlier and earlier, a need for more curriculum based around social media behavior is more necessary than ever.