GW, follow Harvard’s lead: Don’t be afraid to remove students who are racist

Universities make admission decisions based on dozens of factors, including grades, extracurriculars and test scores. This past week, Harvard University rescinded the admission of Kyle Kashuv for failing to meet the moral standards of the school.

But Kashuv is not a regular student, which is why his stripped admission was not a blip-on-the-radar. Kashuv attended Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, survived the Valentine’s Day mass shooting that took 17 lives and later became an gun-control activist. When Kashuv’s admittance was taken away after private conversations made two years ago were leaked revealing Kashuv repeatedly used a racial slur, it became another national headline.

Harvard investigated the incident, asked Kashuv for a statement and then rescinded his admission. They made the right decision.

At GW, we have seen the fallout from racism on campus after three women from Alphi Phi posted a racist Snapchat. The women faced backlash from students and officials, the sorority apologized, GW implemented diversity measures – and the sorority members moved on unscathed. But the University should not be afraid to follow Harvard’s example if and when another racist incident arises on campus. GW should not let racists into our school, even if they apologize and insist they have changed after being caught.

The University has rescinded admission before, albeit under different circumstances than Kashuv. GW would be well within its rights to take admission away from a student who does not meet its moral standards. While Harvard made a tough decision to rescind admission to a famous – and qualified – student, GW handed out a soft penalty for a serious matter after the Snapchat circulated.

Kashuv announced his rescinded admission from Harvard in a series of tweets, and later discussed it with several media outlets. But his comments have an overwhelming argument that Harvard owned slaves at one point and are in the wrong for taking away his admission because the school, like Kashuv, had a problematic history. Kashuv says he is not accepting of his past actions but has grown past them.

GW has a checkered past similar to Harvard. Two former University presidents owned slaves and archived Cherry Tree Yearbooks include photos of students in blackface and wearing Ku Klux Klan robes as recently as 1977. GW has also grown past that period in its history. Part of the University growing from its racist past includes turning away students who fail to live up to its moral standards.

The University has moral standards that discourage racism and sexual assault, but administrators are often afraid to stir controversy and shy away from tough decisions when incidents arise. We have seen GW’s actions play out in more than just the Snapchat incident. When a student allegedly raped another, the University could have expelled him like dozens of students demanded. But officials let the assailant walk at graduation.

If Kashuv was not a well known activist, Harvard still would have rescinded his acceptance, as they did with at least ten students who posted inappropriate memes in a Facebook group just last year. Harvard rescinded his attendance because it was the right thing to do, and it is rare to be able to praise University administrators for doing the same.

The University should not be afraid to follow Harvard’s example. Admitted students who use racial slurs should not be part of our community. While GW still has work to do to repair a past laced with racist figures and acts, it has come a long way. But rescinding admission from students who use racist language or violate GW’s moral code should be a no-brainer.

Kiran Hoeffner-Shah, a sophomore, is the Hatchet opinions editor.

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