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Harvard Rescinds Parkland Student’s Admissions Offer Over Racist Comments in 2017

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Harvard College rescinded its offer of admission to Parkland, Fla. school shooting survivor and gun rights activist Kyle Kashuv earlier this month for racist comments he made in high school, according to an announcement he made on Twitter Monday.

Kashuv’s announcement included embedded emails he exchanged with administrators and a letter from Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 informing him of Harvard’s decision to rescind his place in the Class of 2023.

“As you know, the Committee takes seriously the qualities of maturity and moral character,” Fitzsimmons wrote in a letter dated June 3. “We are sorry about the circumstances that have led us to withdraw your admission.”

Kashuv, a recent graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., became involved in gun rights advocacy in the wake of a mass shooting at the school that killed 17. He also served as the high school outreach director for Turning Point USA, a nonprofit conservative advocacy group.

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Earlier this year, Kashuv drew criticism from former classmates for a series of racist comments he made as a 16-year-old. Kashuv apologized on Twitter in May for his remarks, which included the repeated use of racial slurs in text messages and a Google Doc shared with classmates.

On May 24, Fitzsimmons sent Kashuv a letter reminding him of Harvard’s right to withdraw offers of admission and asked him to submit a written explanation about his conduct.

Kashuv responded with an explanation and an apology for his comments.

“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,” Kashuv wrote in his letter to the admissions office. “I said them, I regret them, and by explaining the context and my subsequent experiences I am not trying to excuse them.”

After Fitzsimmons informed Kashuv of the Admissions Committee’s decision to rescind his offer of admission, Kashuv responded asking to meet with him to discuss the matter. Fitzsimmons declined, writing that the committee’s decision was final.

Kashuv criticized the College’s decision on Monday, writing that he believes the admissions committee demonstrated that they do not recognize students’ ability to change their behavior. He added that he has not yet decided what he will do moving forward.

College spokesperson Rachael Dane declined to comment on the case, citing the College’s policies not to comment on individual applicants. She noted that Harvard makes accepted students aware of its right to withdraw admissions offers in a variety of circumstances, including “if an admitted student engages or has engaged in behavior that brings into question their honesty, maturity or moral character.”

Kashuv did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

Other students who graduated alongside Kashuv have become prominent advocates for gun control, some visiting the Harvard Kennedy School last year calling for reform of gun laws. At least one of those students, David M. Hogg ’23, also earned admission to Harvard.

Kashuv’s case is not the first time Harvard’s decision to rescind admissions offers has become the focus of public debate. In 2017, the College rescinded offers of admission for at least 10 incoming freshmen who were involved in the exchange of racist and sexually explicit memes in a private Facebook group chat.

—Staff writer Shera S. Avi-Yonah can be reached at shera.avi-yonah@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter at @saviyonah.

—Staff writer Delano R. Franklin can be reached at delano.franklin@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter at @delanofranklin_.

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