Just when you thought you'd mastered the requirements of "diversity," another oppressed group joins the list. The latest candidate: matricides. Derek Ho, a junior at Harvard, criticized his school for rescinding the admission of a student who turned out to have murdered her mother: "If they are serious about recognizing different life stories, then she is an exemplary story we don't often see at Harvard," he told the Harvard Crimson. "Harvard has lost the opportunity to admit someone who would have added to the class of 1999."
The life story of the student in question, 19-year-old Gina Grant, is different all right. Five years ago she bludgeoned her mother to death, then stuck a knife through her throat and twisted her lifeless hand around it to make it look like a suicide. After first fingering her boyfriend, Grant spent a mere six months in a juvenile detention center. She has never publicly confessed to the crime or expressed remorse. In a classic case of chutzpah, her application to Harvard stressed that she was an orphan (her father died of cancer when she was 11). She answered no to the question whether she had been disciplined or put on probation; when a Harvard interviewer asked about her mother's death, she said it was an accident.
When Harvard withdrew Grant's admission because of these lies, commentators pronounced her doubly victimizedfirst by an allegedly abusive mother, then by the university. New York Times columnist Frank Rich portrayed her dishonesty as a noble gesture: "In exchange for her dignified silence," he intoned, "she got no rewards, only a smear campaign by Harvard." Boston Globe columnist Patricia Smith caricatured Harvard's response to Grant's past: "'Ick. Yuck. Phooey. She's tainted. She doesn't deserve to walk our musty, hallowed halls because she's not 100 percent pure, honest, and upstanding."'
Such rhetoric is chilling. Smith mocks Harvard's concern about Grant's past and her dissembling as an obsession with "purity," as if only repressed snobs care about honesty and such outmoded taboos as the injunction not to kill. "Meanwhile, here on earth," Smith declaims, "we realize that human beings are fallible." Of course we do; that is precisely why we need a moral code. But if people like Grant are exempted from ordinary morality on the grounds of "victimization," is anything left of that code?