Parkland student loses Harvard offer: Fair or unjust?

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Speed read

What's happening: Kyle Kashuv, a survivor of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 people dead, says Harvard University has rescinded its admission offer over racist and offensive comments he made when he was 16. A few weeks ago, a document and texts were made public in which Kashev repeatedly used the N-word and anti-Semitic statements. He apologized at the time for what he called his "idiotic comments" and said they were made "in an effort to be as extreme and shocking as possible."

In a thread on Twitter, Kashuv shared correspondence he had with Harvard after the school became aware of his statements. He sent a letter of apology, but the university ultimately voted to rescind his acceptance.

There is some precedent for Harvard's decision. In 2017, the university rescinded acceptances for at least 10 students who shared obscene memes in a Facebook group chat.

Why there's debate: Although no one is making the argument that Kashuv's comments were acceptable, there is strong disagreement over whether they should have cost him his chance to go to a prestigious school such as Harvard.

Kashuv's defenders argue that mistakes made at such a young age should not derail someone's future, especially since he has denounced his comments and apologized. How can anyone be expected to grow into a better person, they ask, if they are branded as irredeemable for admitted mistakes?

Some believe the comments were made public as retaliation for Kashuv's conservative politics. Unlike many of his classmates who became gun control advocates, Kashuv has been a vocal defender of gun rights since the shooting.

Others have defended Harvard's decision, arguing that the university has a right to keep someone with a public history of racist comments out of its campus community. There are also questions about the sincerity of his apologies, since they were only made after his statements came to light.

What's next: Kashuv said he's unsure what his future college plans will be, since the deadline to accept offers from other schools has passed. In the meantime, he said, he will continue to advocate for school safety measures he supports like eliminating "gun free" school zones and arming teachers.

Perspectives

Allowing Kashuv to attend would be harmful to Harvard's campus community

"Colleges are institutions of higher learning, and they are also communities where students live and learn on campus. Having a student who has a history of throwing around racial slurs for fun on campus is a huge liability, and is not in the university's mission. Harvard isn't racist reform school. It's one of the most elite universities on the planet." — Jill Filipovic, CNN

Ending bigotry means being willing to forgive past mistakes

"If we take the view that he cannot change, then what hope is there that a truly hateful adult could learn about tolerance?" — Philip Klein, Washington Examiner

Kashuv's experience would help him provide a valuable perspective to his classmates

"It’s hard to know if Kashuv has learned from his repulsive comments, but if he has, wouldn’t Harvard want a kid who is intellectually rigorous and morally humble? Wouldn’t it want a student who could lend a hand to all the perfect résumé children who may not have yet committed a disgrace, but who will?" — David Brooks, New York Times

Most college applicants are judged by what they did at a young age

"The idea that Mr. Kashuv should not be held accountable for his behavior because he was only 16 just doesn’t cut it. College admissions are premised on the behavior of teenagers. That’s the information that’s available. You don’t get to explain away a bad high school GPA by saying, 'Wait, I was young. Now I know better.'" — Michael T. Nietzel, Forbes

Online comments are part of the criteria on which applicants are judged

"I’d guess that any number of applicants to universities like Harvard are rejected or have their admissions rescinded because of something stupid they’ve said on social media. … College admissions are competitive. What can separate someone who gets into Harvard from someone who doesn’t may very well be what was said online at 16." EJ Montini, Arizona Republic

It's fair to question the sincerity of Kashuv's apology

"The whole saga leaves open the question of what would have happened if he’d been forthright about his prior misdeeds and later atonement before being prompted — before they might have cost him admission to Harvard." — Ashley Fetters, The Atlantic

Kashuv was targeted because of his vocal support of Conservative politics

"Let’s not pretend that Kyle is anything other than a victim of the culture wars. Had he not stepped forward after Parkland as a conservative spokesperson, he would be in no one’s crosshairs. He would have been allowed to make a mistake. At its heart, the attack on Kyle isn’t about making Harvard safe from racists. It’s not about protecting anyone. It’s about politics." — David French, National Review

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