The Facebook messaging group was at one point titled “Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens.”
It began when about 100 members of Harvard College’s incoming freshman class contacted each other through the university’s official Class of 2021 Facebook group. They created a messaging group where students could share memes about popular culture — a growing trend on the Internet among students at elite colleges.
But then, the exchanges took a dark turn, according to an article published in the Harvard Crimson on Sunday. Some of the group’s members decided to form an offshoot group in which students could share obscene, “R-rated” memes, a student told the Crimson. The founders of the messaging group demanded that students post provocative memes in the main group chat to gain admittance to the smaller group.
The students in the spinoff group exchanged memes and images “mocking sexual assault, the Holocaust and the deaths of children,” sometimes directing jokes at specific ethnic or racial groups, the Crimson reported. One message “called the hypothetical hanging of a Mexican child ‘piñata time’” while other messages quipped that “abusing children was sexually arousing,” according to images of the chat described by the Crimson.
Then, university officials caught on. And in mid-April, after administrators discovered the offensive, racially charged meme exchanges, at least 10 incoming students who participated in the chat received letters informing them that their offers of admission had been revoked.
In an email to The Washington Post Sunday night, Rachael Dane, a Harvard spokeswoman, said “we do not comment publicly on the admissions status of individual applicants.”
But according to the Harvard Crimson article, written by Harvard student Hannah Natanson, representatives from the admissions office emailed the implicated students asking them to reveal every picture they sent in the group.
“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,” read a copy of the Admissions Office’s email obtained by the Crimson. “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.”
“It is unfortunate that I have to reach out about this situation,” the email continued.