Many high-school students can only dream of getting into an Ivy
League college. These students got in — to Harvard, no less —
but then acted in a way that caused the school to revoke their
At least 10 would-be incoming freshmen at Harvard University’s
undergraduate entity, Harvard College, had their admissions
rescinded in mid-April, after the school discovered messages
they were exchanging in a private Facebook
group chat that included racially and sexually
abusive images, according to the student newspaper the Harvard Crimson.
After Harvard set up an official Class of 2021 group, the 10
students in question created their own “R-rated” group. The
content there — “memes” consisting of photos with large
captions scrawled across them — ridiculed the Holocaust,
minorities and the death of children.
“Think before you post — this is avoidable,” said Peg Samuel,
founder of digital marketing and strategies firm Social
Diva Media in New York. “Most people do have something to
Rachael Dane, a spokeswoman for Harvard College, said the
school doesn’t publicly comment on the admissions status of
individual applicants, but the school’s policies show it
reserves the right to withdraw any admissions offer.
Social media can be a dangerous place for students and
employees, as well as prospective students and employees.
Companies check social-media accounts on such
platforms as Facebook
and even YouTube
to learn more about applicants and see how they
portray themselves online. Just as revealing political stances
can be a wrong move for potential employees, students and applicants,
too, should be mindful of the photos and other content they
But it goes beyond posting unflattering pictures — in an
attempt to be funny or to go viral, people posting memes and
other such content can easily make harmful missteps. The
comedian Kathy Griffin, most recently, offended
many people when she posted an image of herself holding a
bloody mask resembling President Donald Trump — in response,
some of her upcoming comedy shows were canceled, and she was
fired from her job co-hosting CNN’s New Year’s Eve coverage.
Social-media companies, including Facebook, are starting to
target explicit content — the company
announced earlier this year it planned to hire 3,000 people to
remove violent posts and hate speech by using new tools it’s
creating, and will be working with law enforcement, as well.
Twitter doesn’t ban graphic or violent content, but such
material may be marked as sensitive media.
Online posts, even when occurring in private conversations, can
easily become public, Samuel said, because anyone can take and
pass along a screen shot of an image or text. Even a harmless
post could be taken the wrong way, since a person’s audience
may not read or see the content as the poster intended.
“Sometimes the tone is lost, sarcasm is lost and intention is
lost,” Samuel said. “What you’re posting can be totally
different from what you’re saying.”