Harvard withdraws Kyle Kashuv's admission over racist comments made two years ago

He’s apologized repeatedly, publicly to the world and privately to Harvard, and offered to do so again in person after they rescinded his acceptance. No dice. A Twitter pal wondered: If it had been David Hogg instead of Kashuv who got caught sh*tposting as a younger teen, would that apology have been enough? Would Harvard at least have offered him a meeting?

Maybe not, actually. This isn’t the first time the school has rescinded an acceptance for outre Internet musings. Ten applicants lost their admissions two years ago when the school was made aware of a Facebook group chat populated by Harvard admittees that involved “images with captions that were racist and anti-Semitic and that made light of pedophilia, among other offensive themes.” They may have bounced Kashuv this time as matter of simple consistency, to show that a student with an unusually high public profile would receive no special exemption from precedent.

Either way, when you’re 18 and remorseful for something you did when you were 16, an apology should suffice for forgiveness in all cases not involving a felony. Harvard disagrees.

“Sorry, Kyle,” says Patterico, “but Harvard utterly rejects any form of bigotry and discrimination, except of course against Asians.”

There are four arguments for reinstating Kashuv, in order of increasing persuasiveness:

1. Harvard shouldn’t consider a candidate’s beliefs, even racist beliefs, in admitting students. The school should operate the way some righties want social-media platforms to operate, with a First Amendment standard for exclusion. I’m more old-school about that: If it’s your house, it’s your rules. Harvard’s a private entity, like Facebook and Twitter, and Kashuv’s being excluded not for he is but for what he said. If the school wants to toss him and absorb the blowback from that, so be it.

2. He didn’t mean it. Kashuv insists that the racist stuff he and his friends posted wasn’t in earnest but more a matter of mindless transgression by dopey teens. Having worked online for 13 years now, I can buy that. A staple of every thinkpiece about the rise of the alt-right in 2016 was that some were truly committed racist ideologues whereas others were kiddie trolls happy to tag along because they got a stupid thrill out of saying the N-word. It’s easy to imagine a 16-year-old yammering online with his pals, egging each other on, feeling something similar. Although, if that’s the standard we want from Harvard, we’ll be forcing them to distinguish actual racist ideologues from trolling, an effort they may not want to be bothered with and which may not be all that useful. Remember Ken White’s rule of goats.

3. He’s young. There are few mistakes a 16-year-old can make — again, below the level of a felony — that I’d want to alter their lives over. Teenagers are ignoramuses almost by definition. One might counter by saying that youth should be no defense in the context of college admissions: Harvard’s choosing among a population of 18-year-olds, whose “youthful” errors in some cases might have been committed mere months ago. They’re all immature, and yet few (hopefully) have taken to posting racist things online. Still, that’s no counter to believing that universities should be exceedingly forgiving of their charges, perhaps especially in Kashuv’s case. He did in fact endure an unusual trauma at Stoneman Douglas High and may have felt that he “grew up” quickly afterward because of it. Often in cases like this, the claim that the accused is more “mature” now and has seen the error of his ways rings hollow and too convenient. In Kashuv’s case, there’s more reason to believe there’s something to it.

4. He’s sorry, plain and simple. If there’s no room for forgiveness for a penitent 18-year-old, where is there room culturally?

Seth Mandel thinks the lesson being created by these deplatforming episodes, of which this one with Kashuv and Harvard is a variation, is “never apologize.” Eh, I bet Kashuv doesn’t agree. Apologizing was worth doing because it was the right thing to do. But it’s certainly true that remorse increasingly doesn’t suffice to placate a culture that’s remorseless in exacting steep punishment for thoughtcrimes and other heresies. If you missed it a few days ago, here’s Professor Ronald Sullivan and his wife Stephanie, both formerly of Harvard, discussing the school’s decision to terminate him for agreeing to represent Harvey Weinstein in court. There’s not a law school in the country, starting with Harvard, where students aren’t taught that every defendant is entitled to a legal defense. Sullivan applied that logic to the chief villain of the #MeToo saga, and now he’s out. Harvard’s slowly ridding itself of the Bad People, one terrible decision at a time.