An email shows Harvard University notifying a student that they are being expelled because their social media posts inadequately reflects the school.
A number of social media users have been sharing a screenshot that appears to be an email from the Harvard College Office of Undergraduate Education. This email informs a student that they have been “terminated” from the college because of the content of their social media.
Posts sharing the email have gained significant amounts of attention. Some have even managed to gain over 60,000 interactions within a matter of days.
Misbar’s investigation has determined that the email is fake. We have identified genuine instances of students being informed that they had been excluded from the Harvard University community due to their social media activity. At least one of these individuals has posted a letter informing them that they had been removed from the community, and the language used in this letter is significantly different from that found in the viral email. The person who posted the genuine letter of withdrawal, Kyle Kashuv, had been accepted into the college, but this offer of admission was later withdrawn. The letter states that Kashuv made offensive statements online.
Other details indicate that the recent viral email is fake when compared to the letter. One is that Kashuv is referred to by name in the salutation instead of “Dear student,” or “Dear prospective student.” Additionally, the letter gives Kashuv an opportunity to provide information that may let the Admissions Committee reconsider its decision. It is likely that a similar statement would be made in a genuine email to a student who was being expelled. Instead, the viral email just states, “We wish you well in any future endeavors.”
The viral email also does not reflect the process that Harvard University’s Administrative Board takes to inappropriate conduct among existing students. When inappropriate conduct is highlighted to this board, it makes decisions based upon two criteria: the seriousness of a student’s infraction and any extenuating circumstances. The board then issues a decision based upon these criteria, including issuing an admonition, issuing probation, issuing a requirement to temporarily withdraw, and issuing a recommendation to dismiss/expel the student. Therefore, if a currently enrolled student at Harvard had engaged in social media misconduct, it is likely that the student would be issued with an admonition, probation, or withdrawal ruling before being expelled.
Lastly, the viral email states that the student is “terminated” from the college. This phrase does not appear to be used by Harvard University in reference to expulsion. The Administrative Board does not use this phrase on its section of the Harvard University website, and the Harvard College Student Handbook does not use this word in reference to expelling a student. Instead, it only uses this phrase in reference to allowing students to access the college’s computer network and the right to occupy student residences.