Cambridge, Mass. – Harvard University has withdrawn admissions offers to several incoming freshmen after the school found out the students were sharing explicit, obscene and offensive memes online.
The university rescinded admissions offers to at least 10 prospective students, according to The Harvard Crimson, Harvard’s student newspaper. The memes were sexually explicit and sometimes targeted minority groups.
The students shared the memes in a private group chat on Facebook, the Crimson said.
The images and memes mocked sexual assault, the Holocaust and the deaths of children, according to the Crimson. Some of the messages suggested that abusing children was sexually arousing while others had punchlines aimed at ethnic or racial groups.
One called the hypothetical hanging of a Mexican child “pinata time,” according to the Crimson.
Harvard administrators eventually learned of the chat’s contents, the Crimson said. The admissions office soon began asking students who posted material to explain themselves.
The school pulled the admissions offers in April, according to the Crimson. Officials have said in the past that decisions to rescind admissions offers are final.
School officials wouldn’t comment on the specifics of this incident, according to the Crimson.
School policies allow Harvard to pull admissions offers if a student participates in behavior that raises questions about his or her “moral character,” according to Boston.com. Harvard accepted 2,056 students for its Class of 2021 out of nearly 40,000 who applied.
The private chat grew from a 100-member messaging group that members of the Class of 2021 set up in December to share memes about pop culture, according to the Crimson. Admitted students found and contacted each other using the official Harvard Facebook group for the incoming freshman class.
Messages in the original group were mostly lighthearted, one student told the Crimson. Some members eventually formed the second meme group to post more “R-rated” content, the paper said.