Digital free speech is under fire after Harvard University rescinded acceptance offers from 10 prospective students from the incoming freshman class of 2021.
According to the Harvard Crimson, at least 10 prospective students had their acceptances withdrawn after sharing offensive jokes and memes in a private group chat. Some of the conversation topics included mocking sexual assault, the Holocaust, and the death of children. Members of the group made jokes at the expense of several racial and ethnic groups. One person even joked that the hypothetical hanging of a Mexican was “piñata time.” Screenshots of the memes were reported to the admissions committee, which then launched an investigation.
“Harvard College reserves the right to withdraw an offer of admission under various conditions including if an admitted student engages in behavior that brings into question his or her honesty, maturity, or moral character,” the description for Harvard’s official Facebook group for the Class of 2021 read.
All of these messages are reprehensible and Harvard as a private institution has the right to operate how they want. However, this sets a dangerous precedent in the future over how colleges that receive public funding judge students on private speech, let alone on a digital platform.
In a similar manner that the NBA dealt with former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling about his privately recorded conversations he had with his then-girlfriend, a slippery slope is being created that could give public universities license to police speech that they don’t find acceptable, even political speech. Conservatives are being silenced on college campuses on a daily basis, nowadays. So long as they’re not engaging in deplorable behavior, advancing conservative values and ideas could be enough to earn them discipline.
It’s not enough that conservatives have to keep their head on a swivel walking on campus, they have to watch what they post too.