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Education | Parkland, Fla., high school grad loses Harvard bid over online postings
by Laura Edghill
Posted 6/26/19, 04:33 pm

A recent graduate from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., who became a well-known school safety activist after the Feb. 14, 2018, mass shooting there, received a letter last month from Harvard University revoking his admission over racist comments he had made when he was 16 years old. The student, Kyle Kashuv, now 18, provoked a new round of public scrutiny last week when he shared on Twitter his exchange with the university, including his letter asking the school to reconsider.

Screenshots of online conversations he had with friends two years ago began making the rounds on social media in late May, showing Kashuv using anti-Semitic barbs and racial slurs. He attempted to provide context on Twitter, posting a brief note of apology and explanation.

“We were 16-year-olds making idiotic comments, using callous and inflammatory language in an effort to be as extreme and shocking as possible,” Kashuv tweeted May 22. “I’m embarrassed by it.” He went on to describe how surviving the shooting forever altered his perspective and forced him to mature in drastic ways. “I see the world through different eyes,” Kashuv said. “I believe those I’ve gotten to know since know I’m a better person than that.”

Kashuv made the controversial comments in a Google Docs and text message exchange that was meant to be a private conversation among a group of friends.

“So if you say something terrible in a private chat room when you’re 16, then get outed by political opponents, Harvard tosses you?” tweeted Ben Shapiro, the editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire.

Robby Soave, associate editor for the libertarian site Reason, described Harvard’s response as excessively punitive and demonstrative of the “cancel culture” that has become so prevalent in society. “Harvard’s decision here is also an endorsement of the position that people should be shamed and punished for their worst mistakes as kids,” Soave wrote. “But moving forward, as technology gives everyone the ability to record every moment of our lives, this will be an untenable position—all embarrassing moments will be preserved forever, available for relitigation.”

Colleges rarely rescind admissions offers, but Harvard has done so several times in recent years. The elite school revoked offers from 10 incoming freshman in 2017 after discovering offensive images and messages the students posted in a private Facebook group. Those leaked posts included sexually explicit and racist material.

Harvard justified the 2017 revocation, as well as Kashuv’s, by stating that it reserves the right to withdraw offers of admission for behavior by an applicant that brings into question his or her honesty, maturity, or moral character.

“The committee takes seriously the qualities of maturity and moral character,” Harvard Dean of Admissions William Fitzsimmons wrote in a letter to Kashuv. “We are sorry about the circumstances that have led us to withdraw your admission, and we wish you success in your future academic endeavors and beyond.”

According to a nationwide survey of college admissions officials conducted by Kaplan Test Prep, more than two-thirds of them said that a prospective student’s social media profiles and posts are “fair game” in the college admissions process.

But what about the fact that what Kashuv originally shared was within a private forum and not part of his public social media footprint? Computational social scientist David Garcia says true privacy does not exist in the digital world. “We’re used to thinking of having a private space,” Garcia told ScienceNews. “We think we’ve got a room with keys and we let some people in.” But the minute we let friends into our personal space online, we lose control of our privacy, Garcia concluded.

Meanwhile, Kashuv is considering his options. He already intended to take a gap year with plans for matriculation in the fall of 2020. Following the Parkland tragedy, Kashuv became an ardent school safety advocate and rose to national prominence as a gun rights enthusiast. He plans to use his gap year to focus on school safety issues full-time.

With a final high school weighted GPA of 5.345 and an SAT score of 1550, someone in higher education is bound to snap him up.

Associated Press/Photo by Steve Helber (file) Associated Press/Photo by Steve Helber (file) Jerry Falwell Jr.

Down by a dozen

Liberty University’s Rawlings School of Divinity let go of 12 faculty members last week by declining to renew their contracts in response to changing student interests, Inside Higher Ed reported.

Liberty President Jerry Falwell Jr. said in an interview on Friday that Liberty students were less likely to work full time at churches in the future. “As purely a business decision, it’s a move we should have made three to four years ago,” he said. “It’s a cultural shift from full-time ministry workers to Christians in all professions working to make a difference.”

The divinity school has taken a hard hit compared to the rest of Liberty’s departments. In 2013, the university’s religion division accounted for about 13 percent of Liberty’s residential student body and was the second-largest program at the university located in Lynchburg, Va., according to Inside Higher Ed. By 2018, it had 6.1 percent of all students on campus and was the sixth-largest at Liberty. The number of online students in religion programs also decreased by almost 6,000 students over the same period.

“The world out there is seeing less and less full-time vocational ministers, even in the way that mission is happening on a global front,” David Nasser, Liberty’s senior vice president for spiritual development, told Inside Higher Ed. “More people are going in the mission field, and they’re bankers in Hong Kong while they are missionaries.” —Kyle Ziemnick

Associated Press/Photo by Andrew Medichini Associated Press/Photo by Andrew Medichini Pope Francis in Naples, Italy, on Friday

Opening minds

Pope Francis on Friday called on Catholic pontifical universities, Vatican-sponsored schools that train theologians, to better instruct students in understanding and interacting with Jews and Muslims. In an address at a Catholic theology conference in Naples, Italy, the pope also urged university-level theologians to exercise more freedom in their research.

Dialogue with the Islamic world is vital “to build a peaceful existence, even when there are the troublesome episodes by fanatic enemies of dialogue,” Francis said.

Earlier this year, the pope signed a joint statement with the imam of the Sunni intellectual hub of Al-Azhar in Cairo calling Catholics and Muslims “brothers” and asking both religions to help spread “tolerance and peace.”

In his speech on Friday, Francis also called for more flexibility in theological studies. “Theological freedom is necessary,” he said. “Without the possibility of trying new paths, you don’t create anything new.”

The pope did, though, differentiate between academic freedom for the theological researcher and the need for clear doctrinal preaching in local parishes. —K.Z.

Facebook/Alternative Learning Center DBQ Facebook/Alternative Learning Center DBQ Students working for the Alternative Learning Center

Aid for an A

The Alternative Learning Center in Dubuque, Iowa, gave its high school students the option to earn their physical education credits at the end of this school year by doing yard work for the community’s elderly and disabled. Social studies teacher Tim Hitzler came up with the program for his school, according to a report in People magazine.

“Once kids do it once, they wanna do it again,” he said. “It’s good for them to learn real-life skills. They work hard; it’s not easy. They’re sweating when they’re done.”

Using independent learning projects, the Alternative Learning Center focuses on helping students who might otherwise drop out of high school. At the end of each year, the center gives students choices for activities that they can complete to finish PE credits. Twelve students signed up to join Hitzler in taking two hours out of each day to serve those in their community who need help. The work can range from raking and weeding to cutting down bamboo and tending to chickens.

“I’ve had students that graduated that have come back to help,” Hitzler said. —K.Z.

Laura Edghill

Laura is a freelance writer, church communications director, and public school board member living in Clinton Township, Mich., with her engineer husband and three sons. She is a graduate of the WORLD Journalism Institute's mid-career course. Follow Laura on Twitter @LTEdghill.

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  • Joe M
    Posted: Thu, 06/27/2019 12:16 pm

    "With a final high school weighted GPA of 5.345 and an SAT score of 1550, someone in higher education is bound to snap him up."

    "Snap him up?" This line hurt an otherwise fine piece of writing.  

  • CJ
    Posted: Thu, 06/27/2019 01:47 pm

    Harvard should not be required to accept a student; bakers should not be required to bake cakes; photographers should not be required to take event photos; and florists should not be required to provide floral arrangements. Freedom.

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Fri, 06/28/2019 02:06 pm

    Yes, they should be free to discriminate against conservative kids. How about black kids? How about “homosexual” kids? How about liberal kids? How about being able to discriminate against Christian kids? How about white kids?

    The outright discrimination against white kids pushing radical multiculturalism will lead to more racist white nationalism and antisemitism.  Injustice leads to blowback! 

  • OldMike
    Posted: Wed, 07/03/2019 01:52 pm

    Mr. Kashuv will be far better off going to college somewhere other than an elitist, far left, free-speech-denying, political-correctness-enforcing institution.