Harvard Takes Back Hornstine Admission Offer

Decision follows allegations of plagiarism by controversial admit

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Lewis said at the time that “several” offers of admission for the Class of 2007 were under review, though she would not comment on specific cases. But she said offers come under reconsideration for a variety of reasons.

“Most of the time we learn it from the student. Sometimes we hear it from the school. Every once in a while we learn it in the newspaper,” she said.

Harvard’s decision to revoke Hornstine’s offer of admission is the latest development in a saga that began with Hornstine’s $2.7 million suit aimed at preventing her Moorestown, N.J. high school from appointing a second student to share her valedictory honors.

Diagnosed as disabled, Hornstine received most of her high school instruction at home from private tutors, although she was enrolled in the same classes as her peers.

Charging that this setup unfairly advantaged Hornstine, school officials considered naming multiple valedictorians.

In a preliminary injunction, a federal judge agreed with Hornstine that the school’s decision constituted discrimination, and ordered that she be named sole valedictorian.

Hornstine’s suit drew national attention and triggered strong reactions, from Harvard to her hometown.

An online petition, begun before the allegations of plagiarism surfaced, urged Harvard to take back its offer of admission and had garnered 2,685 signatures as of last night.

Hornstine has become a pariah in her town, residents say. Her house was battered with eggs and spray-painted with obscenities, and Hornstine’s family has received death threats over the phone.

Hornstine defended her lawsuit in a written press release, calling her decision to litigate “an act of necessity, aimed at saving others from apathy.”

The media spotlight returned recently when she did not appear at her high school graduation and did not deliver the valedictory address for which she had gone to court.

Hornstine’s case—and her request for damages—remains in litigation pending either a settlement or a jury trial. The two parties will meet before a judge August 13 to discuss further proceedings, Moorestown High School attorney John Comegno said.

In preparation for further discussions, the Moorestown school board is investigating the integrity of Hornstine’s academic coursework, said Cyndy Wulfsberg, the board’s president.

“We need to find out absolutely everything that we can. If it means examination of her work, and if that work is there to be examined, I’m sure we’ll do it,” she said, adding that the board will also likely interview all those involved in Hornstine’s education, including her tutors and guidance counselors.

When contacted by The Crimson yesterday, Moorestown Superintendent Paul A. Kadri said he had not heard of Harvard’s revocation but said he found the news upsetting.

“If it’s true, then I see this as just a very sad chapter to a very sad story,” he said.

—Staff writer Elizabeth W. Green can be reached egreen@fas.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer J. Hale Russell can be reached at jrussell@fas.harvard.edu.