‘Bad Memes’ Provoke Controversy at Harvard

Harvard rescinded acceptance offers for least 10 incoming freshman after the students shared sexually explicit and racist images over private Facebook group chats, images that made fun of sexual assault, child death and the Holocaust. The incident has left students, faculty and figures on both sides of the political spectrum divided.

Erica Goldberg, Assistant Professor at Ohio Northern Law School, “On Harvard and Humor”

Former Harvard professor and self-proclaimed “free speech enthusiast” Erica Goldberg, condemned Harvard’s decision to rescind acceptance offers in her blog, In a Crowded Theater. Goldberg argues that Harvard, as an educational trendsetter, should not set a precedent in which it teaches it’s students to “fear jokes.” Goldberg also argues that humor can ease tensions, so taking genocide seriously yet enjoying a Holocaust joke in the right setting are not mutually exclusive.

Alan Dershowitz, Harvard Law School professor emeritus, “Dershowitz Slams Harvard For Dumping Students Over Racist Memes”

The famous defense lawyer condemned Harvard’s decision in an interview with the Boston Globe. Although Dershowitz had not seen the images, he argued that judging a person’s humor, regardless of its manner, is dangerous because censoring satire is contrary to the spirit of free speech.

Nestor Ramos, Boston Globe, “At Harvard, A Stiff Price to Pay For Some Very Bad Jokes

Quoting Harvard’s own medical research school in Longwood, Nestor Ramos argues that, while Harvard is well within its right to show those 10 students the door, readers should consider what those consequences look like for the students. Neither condemning nor condoning the school’s decision, Ramos quotes experts in the field of psychology who argue that a 18 year-old person’s brain is not fully developed in the areas of judgement and problem-solving. College, he continues, should be a place to learn and grow from one’s mistakes.

Brett Erlich, The Young Turks, “Harvard Rescinds Acceptance Of Students Caught Using Racist Memes”

The Young Turks Host and social satirist Brett Erlich stood by Harvard in his discussion with co-host during the June 5 episode of the popular, left-wing talk show. Erlich argues that, since Harvard did not disclose the names of the rejected students, those who have been accepted into other Ivy league colleges will simply go to their second pick school. Furthermore, this allows Harvard to draw a line in the sand when it comes to “dirty jokes.”

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.
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‘Bad Memes’ Provoke Controversy at Harvard

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