Harvard Rescinds Admission for Parkland Shooting Survivor Kyle Kashuv Over Past Racist Comments

Harvard appears to have reversed its decision to accept pro-gun rights Parkland school shooting survivor Kyle Kashuv into its Class of 2023 over racist comments the teenager made in the months before the February 2018 shooting.

In a Twitter thread on Monday, Kashuv revealed that "three months after being admitted to Harvard Class of 2023, Harvard has decided to rescind my admission over texts and comments made nearly two years ago."

As he noted, Kashuv had made the comments in question "months prior" to the February 2018 school shooting that left 17 people dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The comments he referred to were ones he was forced to apologize for in May, when it came to light that he had used racist slurs, including the N-word, in documents shared with friends.

"A few weeks ago, I was made aware of egregious and callous comments classmates and I made privately years ago–when I was 16 years old, months before the shooting–in an attempt to be as extreme and shocking as possible," Kashuv explained in his Twitter thread. "I immediately apologized."

Sharing a screenshot of his apology, which admitted that he had been "making idiotic comments, using callous and inflammatory language at the age of 16," Kashuv said that "after I issued this apology, speculative articles were written, my peers used this opportunity to attack me, and my life was once again reduced to a headline. It sent me into one of the darkest spirals of my life.

"After the story broke, former peers [and] political opponents began contacting Harvard urging them to rescind me," he claimed.

After that, the teen said Harvard sent him a letter requesting an explanation of the incident within 72 hours and informing him that the school "reserves the right to withdraw an offer of admission."

The letter, signed by Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons, states that the school had "become aware of media reports discussing offensive statements allegedly authored by you."

"As you know, Harvard reserves the right to withdraw an offer of admission under various conditions, including 'if you engage or have engaged in behavior that brings into question your honesty, maturity, or moral character,'" the letter continues.

"On behalf of the Admissions Committee, we write now to ask you to send us a full accounting of any such statements you have authored, including those not discussed in the media, but any others as well," it states, adding a request for a written explanation of Kashuv's actions "for the Committee's consideration."

"I responded to the letter with a full explanation, apology and requested documents," Kashuv said, sharing the letter he wrote.

In his explanation, Kashuv states that he had been "part of a group in which we used abhorrent racial slurs."

"We did so out of a misplaced sense of humor: We treated the words themselves as though they bore little weight and used them only for their shock value," he said.

"Looking back two years later, I cannot recognize that person. I make absolutely no excuse for those comments. I said them and I regret them deeply. I bore no racial animus whatsoever: the context was a group of adolescents trying to use the worst words and say the most insane things imaginable. My intent was never to hurt anyone," Kashuv continued, adding: "I am deeply sorry for my past comments, I know I am not the same person. But I realize there is always more I can do to understand and learn about the struggle and pain of minority communities in America and worldwide."

The teenager vowed that during his gap year, he would supplement his current school safety activism following the February 2018 shooting "to include reaching out to minority communities."

The apology, however, did not appear to be enough for Harvard, which Kashuv said decided to rescind his admission anyway after having "discussed at length your account."

"As you know, the Committee takes seriously the qualities of maturity and moral character," read the letter, again signed by Fitzsimmons. "After careful consideration, the Committee voted to rescind your admission to Harvard College.

"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," Fitzsimmons added.

"Somewhat ironically," Kashuv noted, the teenager had also received a response from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, which said: "We appreciate [your] thoughtful reflections and look forward to connecting with you upon your matriculation in the fall of 2020," before telling him to "have a wonderful day."

Kashuv said that after he received Harvard's letter revoking his acceptance, he "responded by asking for the opportunity to have an in-person meeting to make my case face to face and work towards any possible path of reconciliation."

"Harvard responded by declining my meeting request," he said.

In a statement, Harvard spokesperson Rachael Dane told Newsweek: "We do not comment publicly on the admissions status of individual applicants." However, she reiterated the school's right to withdraw an offer of admission under certain conditions.

Reflecting on the incident, Kashuv said that he felt "Harvard deciding that someone can't grow, especially after a life-altering event like the shooting, is deeply concerning."

"If any institution should understand growth, it's Harvard, which is looked to as the pinnacle of higher education despite its checkered past," he said. "Throughout its history, Harvard's faculty has included slave owners, segregationists, bigots and antisemites. If Harvard is suggesting that growth isn't possible and that our past defines our future, then Harvard is an inherently racist institution. But I don't believe that.

"I believe that institutions and people can grow. I've said that repeatedly. In the end, this isn't about me, it's about whether we live in a society in which forgiveness is possible or mistakes brand you as irredeemable, as Harvard has decided for me."

"So what now? I'm figuring it out," Kashuv said. "I had given up huge scholarships in order to go to Harvard, and the deadline for accepting other college offers has ended. I'm exploring all options at the moment."

In the wake of the February 2018 shooting, Kashuv has risen to the fore as an outspoken gun rights activist, becoming a high school outreach director for pro-Trump group Turning Point U.S.A., a role he stepped down from in May to focus on pushing for school safety legislation before attending Harvard.

The teenager also met with President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump in the White House and has made repeated appearances on Fox News.

Kyle Kashuv
Kyle Kashuv speaks onstage at Politicon 2018 at Los Angeles Convention Center on October 20, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. Kashuv has said his acceptance into Harvard University has been withdrawn over racist comments he made years ago. Getty/Michael S. Schwartz
Harvard Rescinds Admission for Parkland Shooting Survivor Kyle Kashuv Over Past Racist Comments | U.S.