Kyle Kashuv, Harvard and Free Speech

As one is painfully aware, Kyle Kashuv, a survivor of the Parkland school shooting in Florida who became a voice for Second Amendment rights afterwards, had his admission to Harvard rescinded.  In effect, Kashuv had become the anti-David Hogg when it came to gun control.  Obviously, his SAT scores, extracurricular activities and other factors were good enough to get him into Harvard.  That is where the problem starts.

Before he could choose a course, pack his bags and head north to Cambridge, Massachusetts, fellow unnamed, anonymous students had released to Huffington Post the transcripts of text messages and other items in Google docs written by Kashuv that included racial slurs, most noticeably the frequent use of the “N” word.  Within days, some liberal commentators had organized an effort to have Harvard rescind his acceptance.  One Change.org petition was circulated in the blogosphere.  Whether these actions had anything to do with Harvard’s decision to rescind his acceptance is unknown.  We do know that soon after the Huffington Post story, Harvard opened an investigation into these immature musings from a 16-year-old.  This is not the first time Harvard has acted in this manner.

In 2017, at least ten students had their acceptance to Harvard rescinded after it was discovered they formed a private Facebook chat to exchange offensive memes.  They mocked child abuse, used racist jokes and generally attacked all that was politically correct.  In essence, they were playing a game, popular in some circles called “Cards Against Humanity.”  In this game, cards are chosen to create inappropriate associations on topics we are not supposed to mock- things like AIDS, the Holocaust, or even dead babies.  Yet, it is very popular among some people, including liberals.  Harvard’s actions in that case was to act as the humor police in private forums having nothing to do with Harvard.

In the case of Kashuv, it is an admission rescission decision in search of a reason.  He had become a vocal commentator and conservative activist with his contrarian view to that of Hogg that not all survivors of the Parkland shooting were in favor of gun control.  Admittedly, even at age 16 he should have had the maturity to know that wanton use of the “N” word was unacceptable.  He issued an apology, said that the use of the words was meant to be “edgy,” and that he had matured in light of the shooting.  Usually, that is good enough to give certain Democratic presidential candidates a pass with the media.  But, not an 18-year-old high school graduate who made comments two years previous.

Harvard’s decision is final and Kashuv has no Constitutional recourse.  They are a private school.  However, they are denying a benefit- an elite college education to an obviously deserving person- based on private speech.  When the government grants a trademark, they do not speak for the company to which the trademark- an obvious benefit- was granted, or vice versa.  Likewise, Kashuv does not speak for Harvard.  If they are acting based on a fear that their admissions decisions reflect on their own views, then we are entering some dangerous territory.  Instead, they should be in the business of educating a diversity of students with a diversity of viewpoints instead of policing private speech in private settings.

In their rescission letter, Harvard noted that maturity and character matter.  However, these are conduct-based attributes, not something that can be gleaned from private conversations in which Harvard cannot divine the context or motives.  Does Harvard truly expect a 16-year-old to be mature in private?  Hell- in public they are still laughing at immature fart jokes.  It is amazing that while the Left is seriously considering allowing 16-year-olds the right to vote, they are expecting a level of maturity they clearly have not achieved in many other contexts.

The culture of revealing personal conversations, especially by young people, is disconcerting on many levels.  It is certainly chilling speech, even private speech that uses racial slurs no matter how disgusting.    Regardless, he was participating in private conversations from two years ago having nothing to do with Harvard.  The mere fact he ceased attempting to be “edgy” (there is no evidence of such conversations in later years at Parkland) indicates that Kashuv was maturing, something Harvard should have considered.  There is no inkling of a threat to the safety of any Harvard student, if that was even a consideration.

The difference between the ten or so students who had their admission rescinded due to the sharing of offensive memes in a Facebook private chat and Kashuv is that the latter is a public figure.  At the very least, Harvard could have made a statement in favor of tolerance by being tolerant of intolerance, although there is not a shred of evidence that Kyle Kashuv is “intolerant.”  Instead, they decided to become an ideological commentator and social justice facilitator.

Would it not be better for Harvard to welcome Kashuv into their community and teach him to question, to reason, to respect and to engage in civility?  Isn’t that the proper role of higher education?  Instead, they have opted for the easy road and have succumbed to Leftist pressure by maligning an 18-year-old and sacrificing him on the altar of political correctness.

Meanwhile, students aspiring to enter liberal elite colleges would be well-advised to watch what they say and do on social media.  You never know when the Leftist social media mob will be waiting with tar and feathers.

And because you should be well-advised to watch what you say and do on social media in private conversations indicates that we are well on our way to thought and speech totalitarianism.  One wishes Kyle Kashuv luck and success in future endeavors and perhaps there is a college out there with a stronger spine than the hapless people at Harvard.  Today, it may be the use of the “N” word, but in the future it may be an innocuous pro-gun or pro-life comment that brands you with a new scarlet letter- C for conservative.

Note: This article in no way endorses the comments made by Kashuv in his private conversations.