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Harvard reportedly rescinded admissions offers from at least 10 students for an obscene Facebook chat

Business Insider | Jun 5, 2017, 06.13PM IST

Harvard Drew Faust Mark Zuckerberg

AP Photo/Steven Senne

Harvard University President Drew Faust, left, stand with Facebook CEO and Harvard dropout Mark Zuckerberg, right, before Harvard University commencement exercises, Thursday, May 25, 2017, in Cambridge, Mass.

Harvard University has reportedly rescinded admissions offers from at least 10 students, according to student newspaper The Harvard Crimson.

The prospective members of the Harvard Class of 2021 were reportedly part of a small Facebook chat designed for admitted students to share explicit memes and messages.

At one point, according to The Crimson, the group was titled "Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens."

As Crimson staff writer Hannah Natanson reports:

"In the group, students sent each other memes and other images mocking sexual assault, the Holocaust, and the deaths of children, according to screenshots of the chat obtained by The Crimson. Some of the messages joked that abusing children was sexually arousing, while others had punchlines directed at specific ethnic or racial groups. One called the hypothetical hanging of a Mexican child 'pinata time.'"

Harvard representative Rachael Dane told Business Insider that the university does not "comment publicly on the admissions status of individual applicants."

The group in question seems to be a spinoff of a more "lighthearted" Facebook group for prospective students to share memes, according to The Crimson. To join the "dark" group, students reportedly had to "post provocative memes in the larger messaging group."

"They were like, 'Oh, you have to send a meme to the original group to prove that you could get into the new one,'" incoming Harvard freshman Cassandra Luca told The Crimson. "This was a just-because-we-got-into-Harvard-doesn't-mean-we-can't-have-fun kind of thing."

Harvard faced questions over rescinding acceptances after withdrawing Owen Labrie's admission offer after he was accused of rape in 2014, but before his trial even began.

Labrie was eventually found not guilty of the main sexual assault charges, but was found guilty of a misdemeanor statutory rape charge and a charge related to using a computer to entice a minor.

"Harvard admission is contingent on five conditions enumerated for students upon their acceptance - including one which stipulates admission will be revoked 'if you engage in behavior that brings into question your honesty, maturity, or moral character,'" Harvard director of undergraduate admissions Marlyn McGrath Lewis told The Crimson in 2003, referring to the case of an accepted student accused of plagiarism.

The Crimson reported in 2015 that legal experts supported Harvard's policy, noting that a private university was distinct from the federal legal and judicial system.

"Innocent until proven guilty is a concept and standard within the criminal justice system and does not restrict a private school unless that school has voluntarily bound itself to such a high and exacting standard of fairness," Harvey Silverglate, a local lawyer who has advised Harvard students, told The Crimson in an email.

This year, the admissions rate for the Harvard Class of 2021 was 5.2%, with the university accepting 2,056 students from 39,506 applicants.

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