Memes are an internet sensation, but they can also have real-world consequences.
At least 10 students accepted to Harvard College have had their admissions rescinded after sharing racist and “sexually explicit” memes in a Facebook group titled “Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens,” according to the Harvard Crimson.
The student paper reports that incoming students posted memes that mocked “sexual assault, the Holocaust and the deaths of children.” The paper obtained screenshots but those images have not been released publicly.
After finding each other in the official Harvard College Class of 2021 group, incoming students formed a separate Facebook group chat as a way to share memes and other pop culture images. Then a “darker” group was formed as students split off of the main group.
Students who wanted access to the “dark” meme group reportedly had to post “provocative” memes to the first messaging group.
Some of the messages shared there joked that “abusing children was sexually arousing;” another called the hypothetical hanging of a Mexican child “piñata time.”
A spokesperson for Harvard College said that the school “does not comment publicly on the admission status of individual applicants.”
But the prestigious college does have the right to withdraw an offer of admission for multiple reasons, including, “If an admitted student engages in behavior that brings into question their honesty, maturity or moral character.”
This condition is conveyed to the students when they receive their admission status and was also in the description of the official Harvard College Class of 2021 Facebook group.
Other reasons for a rescinded admission include if the student fails to graduate and receive a diploma and if any part of the application contains misrepresentations.
Employees at Harvard’s Admission Office reportedly emailed students who posted the offensive memes in mid-April asking them to disclose what images they sent through the group, according to the Crimson.
“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,” the email said, according to 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.”
Not long after, at least 10 members of the group chat received letters stating that their offers of admission had been withdrawn.