Ivy League acceptance brings responsibilities.

My old school. From the outside it looks exactly the same as when I was there some 60 years ago. Is what’s going on inside the same or something else?

Harvard

Here’s the big  story from today’s Washington Post. What do you think?

One hundred members of Harvard College’s incoming freshman class of 2021 have created a messaging group where they could share on Facebook their own memes or ideas/images taken with their own alterations and additions from popular culture. Then almost immediately afterwards some of the group’s members decided to form an offshoot group in which their images, now X-rated, would be made more shocking, more obscene than those of the main group.

According to Cassandra Luca, an incoming student who had joined the first group but not the second or offshoot group, this smaller group was a kind of “dark” group, a “just-because-we-got-into-Harvard-doesn’t-mean-we-can’t-have-fun kind of thing.” The students of this group were exchanging memes and images that, for example, would “mock sexual assault, the Holocaust, and the deaths of children,” would sometimes make jokes at specific ethnic or racial groups. One of their memes called the hypothetical hanging of a Mexican child “piñata time,” others quipped that abusing children was sexually arousing.

Good fun, clever, free speech? Not according to the Harvard authorities who, when they saw what was going on, immediately withdrew 10 acceptance letters from 10 members of the “dark” group.

Given the kinds of terrible things that today may eventually result at least in part from completely unrestricted speech —Manchester and London, May 2017, for example, when certain individuals made their own wildest, hateful creations, the meme or image of women and children being crushed by bomb or truck on London bridge or the streets of central Manchester, —then Harvard’s response to uncurtailed free speech does seem the right one. There are limits on what one can do, but also on what one can say.

Yet there is Erica Goldberg, an assistant professor at Ohio Northern Law School, who writes in her blog post that by “ferreting out” the members of a private chat group and revoking their acceptances Harvard shows there is an oppressive force out there (in this case at Harvard itself, a bastion of the establishment) that needs to be opposed. The “dark” group with their dark images on social media is only doing this, opposing the restrictive powers that be? Is she right about this?

I give the last world to Erica Goldberg herself. Do I agree with her? Yes and no.

Goldberg, who said she taught at Harvard Law School for three years, compared the dark humor used by the Harvard students to the popular “unabashedly irreverent” game Cards Against Humanity, “whose purpose is to be as cleverly offensive as possible. “Even many good liberals love the game, precisely because the humor is so wrong, so contrary to our values,” Goldberg wrote. She called on Harvard to reconsider its decision. “Harvard should not teach its students to be afraid to joke in private, among people willing to joke back,” Goldberg wrote.


 

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