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Harvard rescinds admission to Parkland survivor over racist comments

Kyle Kashuv, survivor of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, spoke at the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action Leadership Forum in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis in April.
Kyle Kashuv, survivor of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, spoke at the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action Leadership Forum in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis in April. (Michael Conroy/AP)

A survivor of the Parkland shooting revealed Monday that Harvard College had rescinded his admission due to racist comments that he made nearly two years ago.

Kyle Kashuv announced the news in a series of tweets Monday morning, in which he also referenced Harvard’s own “checkered past” and stated that “Harvard’s faculty has included slave owners, segregationists, bigots and antisemites.”

Kashuv became known as a gun rights activist after he survived the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14, 2018, that left 17 people dead.

In the wake of the shooting, Kashuv rose to prominence as he met with President Trump and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and made appearances on Fox News. His social media presence grew to include more than 300,000 Twitter followers.

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In May, Kashuv issued an apology after screenshots of racist slurs that he allegedly wrote when he was 16 surfaced. But apparently his apology and explanation of what transpired were not enough to save his slot at Harvard.

“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, months prior to the shooting,” Kashuv tweeted Monday. “I have some thoughts. Here’s what happened.”

“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,” he continued. “I immediately apologized.”

After he apologized “speculative articles were written, my peers used the opportunity to attack me, and my life was once again reduced to a headline,” he tweeted. “It sent me into one of the darkest spirals of my life.”

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Harvard officials said all admitted students are informed of the conditions under which an admission can be rescinded.

Kashuv said he received a letter from Harvard on May 24 reminding him that the college “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 requested that he provide a written explanation of his actions.

“I responded to the letter with a full explanation, apology, and requested documents,” Kashuv tweeted. “I also sent an email to the Office of Diversity and Inclusion to seek guidance on how to right this wrong and work with them once I was on campus.”

Kashuv said he then received a letter from Harvard stating that his admission had been rescinded.

Kashuv posted a copy of the June 3 letter from Harvard’s dean of admissions, William R. Fitzsimmons, on Twitter.

“The Admissions Committee has discussed at length your account of the communications about which we asked, and we appreciated your candor and your expressions of regret for sending them,” the letter states. “As you know, the Committee takes seriously the qualities of maturity and moral character. 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.”

Rachael Dane, a spokeswoman for Harvard, said in an e-mail the college does not comment publicly on the admissions status of individual applicants. She said Fitzsimmons was not available for an interview.

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Kashuv said he requested an in-person meeting with Fitzsimmons, but Harvard declined.

Kashuv posted a copy of a June 11 letter from Fitzsimmons, in which the dean stated that the decision of the admissions committee was final.

“Harvard deciding that someone can’t grow, especially after a life-altering event like the shooting, is deeply concerning,” Kashuv tweeted. “If any institution should understand growth, it’s Harvard, which is looked to as the pinnacle of higher education despite its checkered past.

He continued: “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.

“In the end,” he tweeted, “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.”

Kashuv had planned to take a gap year before starting at Harvard next fall.

“So what now? I’m figuring it out,” he tweeted. “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.”


Emily Sweeney can be reached at esweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.