In this April 26, 2019 file photo, Kyle Kashuv, a survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla., speaks at the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action Leadership Forum in Indianapolis.
Photo: Michael Conroy, AP/File Photo
Photo: Michael Conroy, AP/File Photo

Harvard rescinds acceptance of Parkland survivor over racist comments

Supporters contend teen is paying too high a price due to his conservative politics

Harvard withdrew the acceptance of a student who survived the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after learning about racist comments he made two years ago. 

What’s making Harvard’s decision controversial is that unlike his Parkland, Fl., classmates who became advocates for gun control after the school shooting that killed 17 people, Kyle Kashuv went in the opposite direction, advocating arming teachers and stronger gun rights policies. He became a popular figure with conservative groups, meeting with President Donald Trump and speaking to the National Rifle Association.

Defenders claim Kashuv is paying a price for his outspoken conservative beliefs, but any student, regardless of political persuasion, would risk losing Harvard admission over the comments Kashuv wrote. And what you do as a 16-year-old can keep you out of Harvard. Ask any student who failed 10th grade math.

In May, after Kashuv was admitted to Harvard, screenshots emerged of racist comments he allegedly made in a shared student study guide on Google Doc and via text messages. 

The captured screenshots showed Kashuv writing the n-word repeatedly in the document and noting, "like im really good at typing (n-word) ok like practice uhhhhhh makes perfect son??!!" He also purportedly described black sports team members as n-word-jocks in a text message.

In explaining his remarks in a statement on Twitter, Kashuv said:

We were 16-year-olds making idiotic comments, using callous and inflammatory language in an effort to be as extreme and shocking as possible…When your classmates, your teachers, and your neighbors are killed it transforms you as a human being. I see the world through different eyes and am embarrassed by the petty, flippant kid represented in those screenshots. I believe those I’ve gotten to know since know that I’m a better person than that. 

A debate is roaring on social media over Harvard’s action, and Kashuv himself is participating, posting Monday:

Like all colleges, Harvard warns accepted students they could lose their offer of admission if they behave in ways that bring into question their “honesty, maturity, or moral character.” 

Two years ago, Harvard rescinded the admissions of 10 students who, in a private Facebook group, exchanged racially offense commentaries.

As the Harvard Crimson reported in 2017:

A handful of admitted students formed the messaging group—titled, at one point, “Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens”—on Facebook in late December, according to two incoming freshmen.

In the group, students sent each other memes and other images mocking sexual assault, the Holocaust, and the deaths of children, according to screenshots of the chat obtained by The Crimson. Some of the messages joked that abusing children was sexually arousing, while others had punchlines directed at specific ethnic or racial groups. One called the hypothetical hanging of a Mexican child “piñata time.”

The chat grew out of a roughly 100-member messaging group that members of the Class of 2021 set up in early December to share memes about popular culture. 

Not all conservatives believe Kashuv was wronged by Harvard. C.J. Pearson, the Georgia teen who shot to conservative fame at age 13 after criticizing Barack Obama and became an adviser to Ted Cruz’s presidental campaign, posted a rebuke to Kashuv’s Twitter statement, saying, “Being 16 isn’t an excuse to refer to black athletes as ‘(n-word)-jocks.’ Just as me — being 16 — wouldn’t be an excuse to make anti-Semitic comments. It’s just wrong.”

Here is Kashuv’s statement:

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About the Author

Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.