In 1990, Gina Grant murdered her mother by clubbing her in the head with a candlestick. This was not a game of Clue run amok; she smashed her mother in the head thirteen times, then stopped to wipe up pools of blood from the kitchen floor. Gina and her boyfriend, an unfortunate fellow named Jack Hook, tried to make the death look like suicide by sticking a carving knife into the side of Mom's neck.

When the police came, Gina accused her boyfriend of the killing, but the physical evidence revealed this to be a lie, and at trial she changed her story to self-defense. The jury did not buy it, and Gina was convicted of murder.

As a juvenile, she was subject to only a small punishment -- six months in prison, and five years' probation. Given that this was South Carolina, she could have suffered a lot worse.

(The boyfriend, by the way, pleaded no contest to being an accessory to murder after the fact.)

Gina's crime would probably not have been node-worthy if not for one thing -- in 1995 she was admitted to Harvard University and then, in a blaze of national publicity, Harvard rescinded the admission offer.

In a sign that Gina would have fit well into the Harvard student body, she had the gall to use the death of her mother as a 'hook' in her application. (Before other Crimsonites reach for their down-vote buttons, please note that I graduated from the school myself). In her application, Gina played up the fact that was an orphan.

When her interviewer asked about her mother's death, she lied and claimed that Mom had died in a car accident. Harvard had no clue. Gina's high school college counselors gave glowing evaluations of her character, never mentioning that she was a murderess.

When Gina appeared in the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine in an article about kids who survive trauma, an anonymous party faxed Harvard copies of news articles about the murders. Harvard, pointing out that Gina had lied on her application when she claimed never to have been convicted of a crime, cancelled her admission.

Thus started a national firestorm of controversy in which people on campus and off debated whether or not an injustice had been done to Gina Grant. The consensus in campus publications and in most newspapers other than the Boston Globe was that the anonymous faxer had been "mean-spirited", and that Harvard was "self-righteous" and "Puritanical". Gina was portrayed as an oppressed soul whom the college had an obligation to help.

These attacks on the university's decision typically referred to the fact that Gina's mother drank a lot, and that Gina claimed to have been beaten by her. (This had been part of Gina's defense at her 1990 trial, but there was no physical evidence of the beatings and the jury had viewed the claim as a self-serving lie. Of the fact that Gina's mother drank there seems to be little doubt; her corpse had a .3% blood alcohol level.)

"Industrial Worker", the publication of the Industrial Workers of the World, pointed out a relevant irony -- "in order to be truly affiliated with Harvard you have to have serial-killer credentials, like a Henry Kissinger." (Kissinger is probably better characterized as a mass murderer than a serial killer, but you can see their point).

For what it's worth, Gina ended up going to school a few miles north, at Tufts.

For other Harvard scandals, check out

and others as I get to them.

Industrial Worker, December 1995
Various Harvard publications, April 1995
Yale Daily News April 10, 1995

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