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Education

Harvard Pulls Student Offers Over Online Comments (go.com) 689

Reader joshtops shares a report: Harvard University's student newspaper says the school has revoked admission offers to at least 10 prospective freshmen over offensive online messages. The Harvard Crimson says the students posted images and comments in a private Facebook group mocking sexual assault, the Holocaust and racial minorities. The newspaper reported that several group members said at least 10 people were told by Harvard in April that their acceptances had been withdrawn.
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Harvard Pulls Student Offers Over Online Comments

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  • Seems reasonable. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Guspaz ( 556486 ) on Monday June 05, 2017 @11:48AM (#54552083)

    Harvard is a private school, not a public school. Their call to reject students based on this sort of thing.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by lgw ( 121541 )

      Sure, it's legal and all. But it sure has a chilling effect - no doubt that's the point. Watch what you say, watch what you think, watch what shows on your face - they're watching you. For your own good, you understand, like a big brother looking out for you.

      • by 605dave ( 722736 ) on Monday June 05, 2017 @11:55AM (#54552157) Homepage

        No, it doesn't say those things. It says if you're an asshole you're not welcome here.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by cellocgw ( 617879 )

          No, it doesn't say those things. It says if you're an asshole you're not welcome here.

          To repeat what should have been bloody obvious to you: Who gets to define "asshole." ? Suppose a college withdraws acceptances for some kids who post that they put their faith in $DEITY over government, for example?

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            I think it's interesting (and telling) that nobody said "free speech", but these Antifa types have shown up almost immediately to remind us that we have only a very narrow constitutional right to "free speech" and that private institutions and businesses can do whatever they want, whenever they want, because they're not the government.
            • by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Monday June 05, 2017 @12:37PM (#54552617)

              Antifa? Alrighty. So let me get this straight - Harvard can have almost completely arbitrary entry criteria, so long as it doesn't violate a government-protected class. Harvard can select kids preferentially based on community service, extra-circulars, grades, essay answers, interviews, etc. All in an effort to get whatever they deem to be a "Harvard" caliber candidate. Yet, somehow, Facebook posts are a line you aren't willing to cross?

              • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 05, 2017 @12:53PM (#54552771)

                The part that not enough people are discussing is why a private Facebook group became public knowledge enough for Harvard to make this decision.

                This should be a discussion of privacy and how to not trust anyone, but instead it's all bickering and arguing about who's a bigger asshole.

                • Re:Seems reasonable. (Score:5, Informative)

                  by ljw1004 ( 764174 ) on Monday June 05, 2017 @01:58PM (#54553325)

                  The part that not enough people are discussing is why a private Facebook group became public knowledge enough for Harvard to make this decision. This should be a discussion of privacy and how to not trust anyone, but instead it's all bickering and arguing about who's a bigger asshole.

                  Read TFA. (Also the source article it links to). Harvard created an official group for the Class of 2021. TFA says: "students were required to post provocative memes in the bigger group before being allowed into the smaller one". So of course this was visible to Harvard, which is how the Harvard Admissions Office reached out to the posters of offensive memes asking for an explanation. I have to assume that at least one of the people they contacted, went on to tell them about the private group and showed them messages.

            • by xevioso ( 598654 ) on Monday June 05, 2017 @01:10PM (#54552929)

              That's because that view is 100% correct. I don't understand why conservatives think there's a constitutional right to say whatever you want without consequences. it's almost as though they've never read the Constitution. The Founding Fathers never, under any circumstances, intended for there to never be any social consequences for your speech. Only that the State can't censor you for your content. Not everybody else.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by cayenne8 ( 626475 )

                That's because that view is 100% correct. I don't understand why conservatives think there's a constitutional right to say whatever you want without consequences. it's almost as though they've never read the Constitution. The Founding Fathers never, under any circumstances, intended for there to never be any social consequences for your speech. Only that the State can't censor you for your content. Not everybody else.

                The thing is...unless there is a societal foundation to support the governmental free spee

                • So you're advocating a new federal government law that actually forbids freedom of association?

                  So if I have a private party in my back yard and someone brings a friend who then starts telling everyone how great Hitler was, I'm not allowed to demand that he leave my property, but instead of I have to have a debate with him about this?

                  Are you fucking insane?

                  What the hell has this country come to when the leftists are the ones supporting freedom of association, and the right-wingers are openly opposed to it?

                  No

              • by penandpaper ( 2463226 ) on Monday June 05, 2017 @02:19PM (#54553473) Journal

                You have a very narrow view of history if you think that. What happens when the government is complicit in the oppression of a people? The KKK and blacks are a prime example. It wasn't the government oppressing black people but also the government didn't do anything to stop it or enforce law and order. Only when black people armed themselves did the KKK subside in any meaningful way.

                What you're saying is that any group can oppress any other group so long as the government is complicit in that oppression. Hey, it isn't the government silencing you or restricting your right to vote. If it's against the law just call the police. Oh, they didn't answer? Well shucks! At least the government isn't oppressing us!

                Yes, there are social consequences to your actions but just as other rights have been codified into private policy such as equality before the law so to should there be some protections for speech in such a speak easy world. To put it another way, Twitter (the preferred platform for POTUS for better or worse) should not be able to ban political ideology just like they cannot ban black people.

              • What's really funny is that, way back int he 60s, it was the liberals crowing about free speech and the conservatives trying to shut it down.
                Now, the conservatives carry the free speech banner, and the liberals are doing the shutting down.

          • No, it doesn't say those things. It says if you're an asshole you're not welcome here.

            To repeat what should have been bloody obvious to you: Who gets to define "asshole." ? Suppose a college withdraws acceptances for some kids who post that they put their faith in $DEITY over government, for example?

            You are saying you would WANT to attend a college that considers such a thing?

          • by Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) * on Monday June 05, 2017 @12:19PM (#54552411)

            Who gets to define "asshole." ?

            Harvard gets to decide. It's a private school.

          • by 605dave ( 722736 )

            Um, the people who are deciding whether you are admitted to their private organization get to define "asshole". And they did.

          • In this case the college gets to define it. It is a private institution and as such has a reputation that is based on the moral as well as academic reputation of their graduates. SOOO... they get to decide entirely and arbitrarily who they are willing to teach and what moral characteristics they expect that person to have. That is what makes their brand and degree more ( or less) valuable the someone else's.

            • Re:Seems reasonable. (Score:5, Informative)

              by dunkindave ( 1801608 ) on Monday June 05, 2017 @12:27PM (#54552519)

              It is a private institution [...] SOOO... they get to decide entirely and arbitrarily who they are willing to teach and what moral characteristics they expect that person to have.

              Just wanted to point out that this isn't true. There are still anti-discrimination laws private institutions must follow, so for example a whites only or blacks only college is illegal under federal law. Also, Harvard receives federal funding which, despite being a private college, makes them subject to a slew of other laws controlling what criteria they can use to admit students.

          • Nice strawman tangent but nothing religious was mentioned and you do realize that religious colleges regularly pass punishment against students based off their beliefs. Why are they allowed and not Harvard?

            Oh, right. The First Amendment only protects the obnoxious organized religions and not the moderate unorganized religions. /sarcasm
          • I'm curious what your counter-argument is. Because no one can define a black-and-white line between the two, anything goes?

          • Suppose a college withdraws acceptances for some kids who post that they put their faith in $DEITY over government, for example?

            Depending on the choice of $DEITY my college may have rejected me. But that's their prerogative as a private and exclusive institution. Quite frankly the admissions process to top universities in America is already a subject of many comedic jokes. This case here is completely fitting.

          • by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Monday June 05, 2017 @01:52PM (#54553265) Homepage Journal
            Yup...so much for colleges being a safe place for free thought, and the ability to vocalize and exchange ideas...even *controversial* ones.....

            If you're not able to talk about such things, then the belief in them doesn't go away..it just goes underground, and festers.....and then they never get exposed to other points of view.

            The free exchange of ideas, allows for beliefs to be put forth and discussed, and in such discussion, the better ones stay and the others fade.

            They fade NOT because they are shouted down, or not allowed to be expressed, but by thoughtful conversation and making valid points to address the weaknesses of the weaker argument.

            I was just watching an interesting video yesterday on Amazon Prime Can We Take A Joke" [imdb.com] , and it really puts an interesting light on what's happening on today's campuses.

            Its interesting how in the past, saw with Lenny Bruce...that is was the far Right that had him arrested and shut down.

            It was the more liberal colleges that pushed the greatest back then, IMHO, for true free speech...even controversial speech.

            And now today...PC and such, are closing down speech again, but this time, instead of the right pushing it...it is the left.

            I would posit the best way to get bad speech out of the way, it to allow it to be spoken, and don't shout it down, but speak against it and debate it.

            Surely the best side will win on merit?

            • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

              The problem is that some speech suppresses other speech. Having a KKK march on campus is likely to creating a chilling effect on other students. The institution has to balance competing freedoms. That is done by requiring people to moderate the way they express their ideas, while trying to allow even the most extreme ones to still be expressed in full.

              In other words, it's as much about the manner of speech as the content.

        • by lgw ( 121541 )

          Ah, so your values agree with their values, and that's all that matters? Of course that's all that maters! Unpeople are unwelcome anywhere!

        • It actually says that if you are, IN THEIR OPINION, an asshole, you're not welcome there. It also defines that people should conform to the norms and standards they are setting to be able to prosper in society (by influencing other colleges to follow suit on private censorship - "if the most respected does, we should do it too").

          Related to this, the whole "private censorship is fine" argument is a mean to obtain total censorship. Just like the third party theory is being used for total surveillance.

          Note: if

      • by rwa2 ( 4391 ) *

        Yep, people are always watching Harvard. They really need to watch what their students say, it could really reflect badly on their student population at large if some of them happened to be insufferable pricks. It'd be almost like saying they condoned that kind of behavior...

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 05, 2017 @11:56AM (#54552173)

        Chilling effect? I'd disagree-- Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences.

        You can say these things without being prosecuted by law, but don't be surprised when nobody likes you and nobody wants you around.

        • Not associating or being around someone you don't like is very different than having limited access to public accommodations. If the government is complicit with your "consequences" what is the effective difference if that person cannot exercise their rights or use public accommodations? Do you think black people were happy not able to vote because it was the KKK that stopped their vote with a complicit government?

      • by shess ( 31691 )

        Sure, it's legal and all. But it sure has a chilling effect - no doubt that's the point. Watch what you say, watch what you think, watch what shows on your face - they're watching you. For your own good, you understand, like a big brother looking out for you.

        That assumes that they're doing it because they personally disagree with what was said. Instead, it could be that they simply don't want to be dealing with lawsuits or riots in two or three years because some asshat with a history of posting egregiously racist or sexist jokes continued doing similar things once they matriculated.

      • by TsuruchiBrian ( 2731979 ) on Monday June 05, 2017 @12:43PM (#54552677)

        Getting fired for telling your boss to go fuck himself/herself also probably has a chilling effect. Anyone in the office who thought maybe they could get away with doing the same thing without getting fired will have a serious disincentive to express their 1st amendment free speech rights in this way.

        I'm a libertarian, and this is the sort of chilling effects that I am comfortable with.

        The private school maintains it's freedom to accept and reject whomever it wants, and the students are free to apply to any other schools they wish and those other schools are free to accept or reject them.

        Your actions have consequences. The constitution promises that your speech will not have legal consequences in most circumstances (except special cases like perjury, etc). It is not limitless. These kids are either adults or soon to be adults. This is an important lesson to learn. Another important lesson is that one setback (e.g. not getting into a particular school) is not the end of the world, and it is an experience you can learn from and improve yourself. A third very important lesson, is to assume that everything on the internet is forever. Everyone says embarrassing stuff on the internet and in real life. Embarrassing things are easily forgiven if not forgotten. Try not to say to many things that you would be actually ashamed (not just embarrassed) of if made public.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by GLMDesigns ( 2044134 )
      Of course the definition of "mocking" needs to be known before judging.

      I don't mock rape. I think rapists deserve the death penalty. And I will mock the SJW who say that 1/4 of the women in college are raped as I don't think that "hitting" on a girl qualifies as rape

      So yeah, mocking may actually be in order -- DEPENDING (of course) on what they're mocking.
    • Not that I read the article or anything, but it seems to me that any of the students could claim that the whole thing was fabricated (maybe by somebody interested in keeping them out of Harvard?) Maybe in this case, the whole thing is ironclad, but now that the cat is out of the bag, next time around it may not be. There's a good reason that (yes, even privately owned) companies/institutions are better off being upfront - and _consistent_ - with their policies.
    • Yeah they're "private" but they take in a shit load of public money, to the tune of over 600 million dollars in a recent year. Not to mention the exemption they enjoy regarding their endowment. It's not as simple as just calling them private full stop when they sidle up to the public trough.

  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Monday June 05, 2017 @11:51AM (#54552111)

    Mr burns can get them into yale!

  • As it should (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rholtzjr ( 928771 ) on Monday June 05, 2017 @11:52AM (#54552121) Journal

    This is something that everyone should be aware of when posting views and comments on the Internet. If you do not want it to be public forever, then do not post.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This is something that everyone should be aware of when posting views and comments on the Internet. If you do not want it to be public forever, then do not post.

      Or, you can post without using an account and post whatever the fuck you like.

      Anonymous Coward is not really accurate. Anonymous Smarter Person is more like it.

    • This is some of the best simple advice everyone should be aware of.

  • Good news (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 05, 2017 @11:54AM (#54552145)

    Good news for 10 people on the waitlist.

  • Man (Score:4, Funny)

    by mewsenews ( 251487 ) on Monday June 05, 2017 @11:54AM (#54552147) Homepage
    Those kids who are blaming Cards Against Humanity are going places! Not Harvard.. but places..
  • by fish_in_the_c ( 577259 ) on Monday June 05, 2017 @12:06PM (#54552273)

    Colleges are not Vo Techs. It was NOT the original purpose of a college to prepare someone for the work force. They were designed an intended to teach people MORALITY first and science and information second. Western universities come to us originally as an effort of Medieval religious education intended for priest Monks and the ruling class. So anyone going to college should expect to be subject to moral formation. It might be an idea for parents to consider if they agree with the moral formation they are paying for. No one should kid themselves. Even state run schools have an agenda and program of moral formation. Often times a very anti-religious one.

  • Private group? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sanf780 ( 4055211 ) on Monday June 05, 2017 @12:08PM (#54552305)
    So, how did Harvard get into a Facebook private group? I do not use Facebook, but in my humble opinion, a private group means that unauthorized entities cannot access that group.I understand robots that scan words like "bomb" and maybe the NSA, but not real people with no affiliation to the group or the service or national security.

    Be warned, millenials! Nothing is private on the interwebs.

    • by Plugh ( 27537 )
      Wish I had mod points for the parent. These posts were to private groups. So... How did Harvard know about them? Do they join all the FB groups of every potential undregrad? Do they have some special tap to the FB data so as to read content in groups of which they are not a member? What?
    • Re:Private group? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Monday June 05, 2017 @12:19PM (#54552417) Homepage

      Be warned, millenials! Nothing is private on the interwebs.

      This is pretty much Rule #1 of Internet use: No matter what you post, no matter how private the message or restricted the forum, assume that it WILL get out. If you wouldn't say this to your spouse, parents, siblings, relatives, boss, co-workers, etc, then you should seriously reconsider saying it online.

    • Re:Private group? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Albanach ( 527650 ) on Monday June 05, 2017 @01:01PM (#54552837) Homepage

      So, how did Harvard get into a Facebook private group? I do not use Facebook, but in my humble opinion, a private group means that unauthorized entities cannot access that group.I understand robots that scan words like "bomb" and maybe the NSA, but not real people with no affiliation to the group or the service or national security.

      From the article:

      Students had created the Facebook group as a spinoff from a 100-member group created for the Class of 2021. The Crimson says students were required to post provocative memes in the bigger group before being allowed into the smaller one, which was at one point called "Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens."

      There was no need for access to the private group if the entry requirement was to post something like the memes described in the official Class of '21 facebook group set up by Harvard employees.

    • A little common sense bit of advice here.... don't put things in writing you would be uncomfortable having someone read in court.
  • by spoot ( 104183 ) on Monday June 05, 2017 @12:44PM (#54552687) Homepage

    As a private institution, Harvard does indeed have the right to pull the plug on admissions on anyone. However, it is a (and excuse using what often is a logical fallacy [wikipedia.org]), a slippery slope. With all of the illogical attacks and rampant emotionalism happening on campus these days, I often say to my sig-other, that I would never attend college these days. In fact, as a alumni of one of the most liberal colleges, I don't support the alumni association with donations, instead I give my dough to thefire.org [thefire.org]. If you haven't been keeping track, here are a few examples: Yale 2.0 at Evergreen State College [thefire.org], When the left eats its own [nytimes.com], Harvard president defends free speech in commencement speech; Harvard still actively suppresses student rights [thefire.org], and the list just goes on and on. The trend away from using logic, peer-review, toward speech-crimes and railing against traditional western liberal free thought and debate is just intellectually mind numbing.

  • Over 400 comments, so it's what passes for a "popular" topic on today's Slashdot. Especially disappointed by the feeble attempts at humor, but maybe those funny mods were just examples of the latest craze among trolls, using "funny" mods to attack in a less obvious way. "Hey, just because YOU didn't appreciate the humor."

    The obvious angle for insight did not seem to be touched at all. Of course I started by searching for comments modded as "insightful", and then I went through a bunch of keyword searches. Came up with nothing along the lines of my Subject: question.

    In brief, if the Harvard people are just trying to cover their own ass (the university's collective ass?) by avoiding being linked with stupid posts on Facebook (or Slashdot), then it's a depressing kind of cowardice in what is supposed to be one of the leading institutions of America. ("Hey, but it's just a symptom of how America is LOSING", as the Trumpists would say.)

    If the Harvard people are sincerely interested in protecting society from harm, then it's a completely different thing. Maybe they remember such moral disasters as that AG who defended torture for Dubya and that little Ted Cruz coward who were empowered to do much of their damage by their Harvard imprimaturs. I for one would not blame Harvard for seeking to avoid creating the next (and possibly worse, ITIP) Ted Cruz.

    Lots of largely incoherent mumbling about free speech in this Slashdot discussion, but I doubt most (or perhaps any?) of them actually know what freedom is.

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