Our universities may be irrevocably broken.
On Monday, Parkland survivor and outspoken conservative Kyle Kashuv announced that Harvard University had withdrawn his admission from the school over the revelation of racist, offensive, idiotic posts written on a private Google document with friends when he was sixteen years old. Never mind that Kashuv apologized publicly for the comments; never mind that his public behavior has evinced no racism whatsoever.
Forgiveness must be withheld.
1/ THREAD: Harvard rescinded my acceptance.— Kyle Kashuv (@KyleKashuv) June 17, 2019
Three months after being admitted to Harvard Class of 2023, Harvard has decided to rescind my admission over texts and comments made nearly two years ago, months prior to the shooting.
I have some thoughts. Here’s what happened.
2/ A few weeks ago, I was made aware of egregious and callous comments classmates and I made privately years ago - when I was 16 years old, months before the shooting - in an attempt to be as extreme and shocking as possible.— Kyle Kashuv (@KyleKashuv) June 17, 2019
I immediately apologized.
Here is my apology: pic.twitter.com/eI38ziiQE8
3/ After I issued this apology, speculative articles were written, my peers used the opportunity to attack me, and my life was once again reduced to a headline.— Kyle Kashuv (@KyleKashuv) June 17, 2019
It sent me into one of the darkest spirals of my life.
4/ After the story broke, former peers & political opponents began contacting Harvard urging them to rescind me. Harvard then sent this letter stating that Harvard "reserves the right to withdraw an offer of admission" and requested a written explanation within 72 hours. pic.twitter.com/RfEQCvjgDX— Kyle Kashuv (@KyleKashuv) June 17, 2019
5/ I responded to the letter with a full explanation, apology, and requested documents. pic.twitter.com/yWd6FeKWOJ— Kyle Kashuv (@KyleKashuv) June 17, 2019
6/ I also sent an email to the Office of Diversity and Inclusion to seek guidance on how to right this wrong and work with them once I was on campus. pic.twitter.com/3M1UEXXeQm— Kyle Kashuv (@KyleKashuv) June 17, 2019
7/ Harvard decided to rescind my admission with the following letter. pic.twitter.com/P3bLkF3hHn— Kyle Kashuv (@KyleKashuv) June 17, 2019
8/ Somewhat ironically, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion sent me this response regarding my apology:— Kyle Kashuv (@KyleKashuv) June 17, 2019
“Thank you for your email. We appreciate your thoughtful reflections and look forward to connecting with you upon your matriculation in the fall of 2020..." pic.twitter.com/YUX67QW3KE
9/ After receiving Harvard’s letter revoking my acceptance, I responded by asking for the opportunity to have an in-person meeting to make my case face to face and work towards any possible path of reconciliation.— Kyle Kashuv (@KyleKashuv) June 17, 2019
Harvard responded by declining my meeting request. pic.twitter.com/rdsGU7BhjD
10/ Harvard deciding that someone can’t grow, especially after a life-altering event like the shooting, is deeply concerning. If any institution should understand growth, it’s Harvard, which is looked to as the pinnacle of higher education despite its checkered past.— Kyle Kashuv (@KyleKashuv) June 17, 2019
11/ Throughout its history, Harvard’s faculty has included slave owners, segregationists, bigots and antisemites. If Harvard is suggesting that growth isn't possible and that our past defines our future, then Harvard is an inherently racist institution.— Kyle Kashuv (@KyleKashuv) June 17, 2019
But I don't believe that.
12/ I believe that institutions and people can grow. I've said that repeatedly.— Kyle Kashuv (@KyleKashuv) June 17, 2019
In the end, this isn’t about me, it's about whether we live in a society in which forgiveness is possible or mistakes brand you as irredeemable, as Harvard has decided for me.
13/ So what now? I’m figuring it out.— Kyle Kashuv (@KyleKashuv) June 17, 2019
I had given up huge scholarships in order to go to Harvard, and the deadline for accepting other college offers has ended.
I’m exploring all options at the moment.
As far as his Harvard qualifications, they weren’t based on his activism. Kashuv was ranked second in his class, with a weighted GPA of 5.345 and an unweighted GPA of 3.9; he scored a 1550 on his SATs. But Kashuv’s activism has been impressive nonetheless: he has worked consistently across the aisle to bring about school safety measures to protect other high schoolers, and that his terrible comments were written before the life-changing event the mass shooting at Parkland represented.
Kashuv’s comments were originally surfaced by fellow students who oppose him politically, in an overt attempt to damage him. Kashuv did the right thing and issued an immediate apology:
In a normal world, this would have been enough. Kashuv is 18 years old, and he wrote the comments when he was 16. He didn’t commit a crime; he didn’t espouse his gross views publicly; his behavior since has not mimicked any of the content or attitude of the comments. He also underwent a life-changing trauma — the kind of trauma that has provided an unbreakable shield of protection from the media for all other Parkland survivors. Hell, criticizing outspoken anti-gun activist David Hogg was considered an act of extreme evil by the mainstream media, an act worthy of advertiser boycott.
Not for Kashuv.
His apology wasn't sufficient, Harvard determined. Instead, Harvard University issued a letter asking Kashuv to explain his comments or face the rescinding of his attendance.
Before responding to the main email, Kashuv wrote this one to the Office of Diversity Education and Support:
Around two years ago, when I was 16 years old, before the mass shooting that occurred at my high school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, I was part of a group in which we used abhorrent racial slurs. We did so out of a misplaced sense of humor: we treated the words themselves as though they bore little weight, and used them only for their shock value. Looking back two years later, I cannot recognize that person. I make absolutely no excuse for those comments. I said them, and I regret them deeply. I bore no racial animus whatsoever: the context was a group of adolescents trying to use the worst words and say the most insane things imaginable. The horrible things I said were not directed to any specific person or individual, and my intent was never to hurt anyone.
I do not have access to the electronic record of that conversation and do not recall other things that may have been said; I have only seen what has appeared in the media. When reminded of those comments, I immediately apologized publicly, knowing that there would be an immediate media uproar, given that I have become a public figure over the past year. That uproar did ensue, and I have continued to accept responsibility for my comments, and I accept fully the resulting legitimate criticism. I am entirely embarrassed and do not recognize the person who wrote those things.
As you may not know, I had already intended to take a gap year to continue my school safety activism, before beginning my studies in the fall of 2020. I will hope to enter Harvard as a more mature member of the community, with three years and many life experiences between the foolish child who said those things two years ago and the man I am today and wish to become in the future.
I am deeply sorry for my past comments, I know I am not the same person. But I realize there is always more I can do to understand and learn about the struggle and pain of minority communities in America and worldwide. During my gap year, I will supplement my activism to include reaching out to minority communities. I am open to any advice or suggestions on activities I might pursue during my gap year in pursuit of that goal. I am committed to engaging on this issue, and I plan to visit your office when I arrive at Harvard in the fall of 2020 after I complete my gap year.
Then Kashuv wrote this response to William Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid:
Dear Mr. Fitzsimmons:
Thank you for the opportunity to elaborate on what has been a very difficult and painful public controversy, which has left me with feelings of deep regret over an episode I had long forgotten. Let me first state that I apologize unequivocally for my comments, which were made two years ago in private among equally immature high school students. In the attached document, I have attached all the comments I have been able to record. I do not have access to the electronic record of that conversation and do not recall other things that may have been said; I have only seen what has appeared in the media. I take full responsibility for the idiotic and hurtful things I wrote two years ago. I make absolutely no excuse for those comments. I said them, I regret them, and by explaining the context and my subsequent experiences I am not trying to excuse them. Instead, I am seeking to demonstrate the hurtful things I said do not represent the man I am today.
I understand Harvard’s concern over these offensive statements from my past, and I further understand that Harvard has been contacted about them by people expressing concern about them. I am very sorry to have put the College in this position. I am determined to take whatever steps are necessary to rectify this past wrong and to reassure Harvard of my commitment to values of tolerance, diversity, and inclusion, which I hope to advance as a member of the class of 2024.
This is the context in which I made these comments. While this does not excuse my comments, I made poor choices with regards to the people I surrounded myself with, I became part of a group in which those words bore little weight and were used only in a means for their shock value. I bore no racial animus; the context was a group of adolescents trying to use the worst words and say the most insane things imaginable. Until these writings were disclosed, I had long forgotten about them. While I will forever bear incredible shame for typing them, I especially feel remorse now that they have been made public knowing they have caused terrible pain to people I care about. I gave no consideration to the meaning and weight of the words I wrote in an effort to impress then friends and classmates, and looking back I know clearly know I wrote terrible things I can never unwrite.
My intent was never to hurt anyone, and to do so would have magnified the harm immensely. I also feel I am no longer the same person, especially in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting and all that has transpired since. I had to mature not only to address that horrible situation but to fulfill my new role as a school safety activist. I have tried hard to be a better man in honor of the friends I lost, and I believe I have grown and matured significantly through this experience. I am proud of some of the things I have accomplished in the wake of that tragedy, and I do not recognize the person who wrote those things.
When I was reminded of the writings I was mortified and embarrassed. My parents raised me to be better than what is represented in those screenshots from about two years ago. In an effort to be as honest and transparent as possible, I immediately apologized publicly when reminded of those messages, while knowing the media uproar that would ensue. It did ensue, and I have continued to accept responsibility and the resulting legitimate criticism.
As you know, I intend to take a gap year before beginning my studies to continue my work promoting school safety. I will continue to mature and will enter Harvard with three years and many life experiences between the foolish child who said those things and the man I am today. As an aspiring member of the Harvard community, I aspire to the values that the community strives to uphold. Therefore I have already written to the Harvard College Office of Diversity Education and Support both to express my deepest apologies and remorse, and to reach out to begin a dialogue that I hope will be the foundation of future growth. While I am no longer the same person who wrote those comments, there is always more to learn: especially about the legacy of racism in our society.
Thank you again for this opportunity to address these issues. I hope this fully addresses your concerns, but if not I would be happy to provide any further information or discussion you require.
No good. Harvard sent Kashuv a blunt letter kicking him out of Harvard:
Dear Mr. Kashuv,
Thank you for your response to our letter of May 24. The Admissions Committee has discussed at length your account of the communications about which we asked, and we appreciated your candor and your expressions of regret for sending them.
As you know, the Committee takes seriously the qualifies of maturity and moral character. After careful consideration the Committee voted to rescind your admission to Harvard College.
We are sorry about the circumstances that have led us to withdraw your admission, and we wish you success in your future academic endeavors and beyond.
This is, to put it mildly, gutless. There are ex-convicts who, quite properly, have been admitted to Harvard — they earned forgiveness. There are current students who undoubtedly have said things privately that would shock the conscience. There are likely administrators who have said things when they were 16 years old that embarrass them now. Is the new standard that if you said something on a private message board when you were 16 years old that we should deny you the possibility of a degree at a top college, so long as those who join you on that message board decide to out you?
This isn’t about Kashuv’s politics. I’ve worked with other Parkland survivors including Cameron Kasky, with whom I disagree politically, but who happens to be a wonderful young man — I would certainly defend him if something similar happened to him. I’ve defended Sarah Jeong of The New York Times from calls to be fired over her old tweets; I’ve done the same with James Gunn; I’ve even suggested that Virginia Governor Ralph Northam ought to be judged based on his lifelong career record on race, not based on a racist yearbook photo. I’ve stumped against the social media bannings of people with whom I virulently disagree — people who have in fact targeted me personally.
This move by Harvard is the worst move I’ve ever seen in academia — and it represents the establishment of a standard so insane that no one can possibly withstand it. All those who have never written an embarrassing thing privately, please step forward. Not so fast, SJWs.
The move comes just three weeks after Harvard University fired Professor Ronald Sullivan and his wife Stephanie from their deanships at Winthrop House over the apparently unforgiveable sin of Sullivan’s representation of alleged rapist Harvey Weinstein. Sullivan was ousted because students said they were offended by Sullivan doing what he’s always done: defending alleged criminals. Over at Yale, Professor Nicholas Christakis and his wife Erica were effectively ousted from their roles as co-masters of Silliman House because they suggested that perhaps students shouldn’t take offense at Halloween costumes. Over at Evergreen College, Professor Bret Weinstein and his wife Professor Heather Heying were forced out over Weinstein’s refusal to stop teaching for a “Day of Absence” for white teachers.
Our colleges are irreparably broken; the inmates are in charge of the asylum.
Kyle Kashuv acted like a dumb kid. He’s remorseful. Denying him the chance to prove it is horrifying. And if the new standard is that anyone whose old comments are resurfaced for fun and games can have their life ruined, no one will survive. I look forward to tasking my reporters with digging up everything everyone on the admissions committee has ever said. If these are the new rules, so be it.
But these are, apparently, the new rules. Kashuv is the first to feel the brunt. He certainly won’t be the last.