Harvard Takes Back Hornstine Admission Offer

Decision follows allegations of plagiarism by controversial admit

Harvard has revoked its admission of Blair Hornstine, the prospective member of the Class of 2007 who made national headlines when she sued her school system to ensure she would be her high school’s sole valedictorian.

Following a widely-publicized report that Hornstine had plagiarized material in articles she wrote for her local paper, the Harvard admissions office has rescinded her offer to attend Harvard in the fall, according to a source involved with the decision.

Her acceptance came under scrutiny after her local newspaper, the Courier-Post, reported that Hornstine had “misused sources” in five stories she wrote for the paper and had lifted extensive material directly from speeches and papers published on the Internet. The media attention followed her decision to sue the Moorestown, N.J. school system to ensure she graduate as sole valedictorian of her high school. A federal judge ruled in Hornstine’s favor last month and forbid the school district from naming a co-valedictorian.

According to Director of Undergraduate Admissions Marlyn McGrath Lewis ’70-’73, who declined comment on Hornstine’s case, Harvard admission is contingent on five conditions enumerated for students upon their acceptance—including one which stipulates admission will be revoked “if you engage in behavior that brings into question your honesty, maturity, or moral character.”

Lewis said plagiarism could qualify as grounds for withdrawing acceptance, and according to another source familiar with Harvard’s admissions process, it would be very unusual for Harvard not to act against an individual whose plagiarism was confirmed.

Neither Hornstine nor a spokesperson for the family returned The Crimson’s calls for comment yesterday, and her lawyer, Edwin J. Jacobs, refused to comment when reached by phone.

Hornstine’s spokesperson, Steven K. Kudatzky ’72, had said previously that she was in contact with Harvard about the alleged plagiarism.

According to Lewis, when an application comes under review, Harvard first asks a student “to tell us in his or her own words what happened.”

The admissions committee—composed of both representatives from the admissions office and professors—then meets to discuss the case.

The decision on Hornstine followed such a meeting.

Since the allegations of plagiarism were first reported, Hornstine has defended her actions by way of press releases and family spokespersons.

In a column by Hornstine in June printed next to the Courier-Post’s note about the “misused sources,” Hornstine said her citation problems stemmed from a lack of training in journalism.

“I kept notes on what I had read,” she wrote. “When finalizing my thoughts, I, like most every teenager who has use of a computer, cut and pasted my ideas together. I erroneously thought the way I had submitted the articles was appropriate.”

Hornstine wrote she now understands that she “was incorrect in…thinking that news articles didn’t require as strict citation scrutiny as most school assignments because there was no place for footnotes or end notes.”

At the time, Kudatzky said he thought it unlikely that Harvard would withdraw Hornstine’s admission.

“I am confident that, at the end of the day, Harvard will see that this is a non-issue, and, quite frankly, something that is another example of Blair being singled out and victimized,” he told The Crimson.