The month of June means time for Beach Week, an annual, mid-Atlantic tradition. Celebrating the end of an academic year, unchaperoned high school and college students rent houses, inhabit hotels, and populate the beaches. It is a tradition dating to 1982 or earlier, when the Honorable Brett Kavanaugh, now the most junior US Supreme Court Justice, infamously attended. During his recent Senate Confirmation process, lawmakers perused fading photographs, yearbooks, a Mark Judge novel, and hazy memories; looking for evidence of unsuitability and lapses in personal judgement.
Times are different today for the young. Smartphones and social media eliminate the possibility of plausible deniability; instead indemnifying any young adult who made a juvenile decision. Such is the case of Kyle Kashuv, whose admissions to Harvard University in Boston was rescinded for social media posts made at age 16.
Laden with casually-strewn racial slurs, the posts reflect on Kashuv’s maturity at the time, and on the society in which he was raised. That was in Parkland, Florida. Rachel Slade, author of Into the Raging Seas, noted the state’s proclivity to racial slurs and use of the n-word. Fittingly to this case, William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, set in the 1920’s, demonstrated the culture clash between Southern racial hierarchies and Boston’s progressive attitudes on racial equality. Today’s Harvard talks the talk of promoting racial justice. Does it walk the walk?
Since World War Two, the US Army has taken a proactive role in fighting this kind of ingrained racism. In an era that still had segregated lunch counters, Blacks were assigned as Sergeants in charge of turning Southern White recruits into soldiers, physically and morally. Fixing prejudice hands-on, as the US Army has done, is something Harvard has shown unwillingness to do, in rescinding a young man’s admission letter. A more important observation, though, is that the digitally-native Generation Z is coming of age in a zero-defect culture; while previous generations got a pass on their youthful indiscretions- even into the Ivy League.
“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”, wrote Dr. Fitzsimmons, Harvard’s dean of admissions in a personal letter to Kashuv.
(Source: Patricia Mazzei, NY Times, 6/17/19)