Gina Grant college admissions controversy

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Gina Grant (born 1976) is an American woman who gained notoriety for receiving early admission to Harvard University, only to have it rescinded when it became known that she had killed her mother and had omitted this fact from her college application.


Gina Grant was the daughter of Charles Grant and Dorothy Mayfield, both of whom lived in Lexington, South Carolina. She had one sister, who was 9 years older than she was. Gina's father died of lung cancer when Gina was 11-years-old.[1]

1990 killing and aftermath[edit]

At the time of her crime, Grant was a juvenile so as per the law pertaining to minors, the criminal records are sealed.[1] However, the Lexington County sheriff, James Metts—who handled the original case—released Grant's name immediately after her arrest.[1] Thus, the facts of the case are available in copious newspaper and magazine articles published in the early 1990s.

On September 13, 1990, in Lexington, South Carolina, the 14-year-old Grant bludgeoned her mother 13 times with a crystal candlestick, crushing her skull. She mopped up pools of blood from the kitchen floor and hid the candlestick and bloody rags in a closet. She then tried to make the death look like suicide by sticking a carving knife into the side of her mother's neck, and wrapping her mother's fingers around the handle.[1]

Grant changed her story several times. Initially, she told police that her mother attacked her while holding a knife and then stabbed herself in the throat. When the candlestick was discovered, Grant changed her story, eventually telling the police that she had committed the killing in self-defense. She was charged with murder.[1]

In mitigation, evidence suggested that Grant's mother was an alcoholic. Gina claimed that her mother had been physically abusive, to which Gina's sister attested. Grant pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to a year in juvenile detention, with probation until age 18. Her boyfriend pled no contest to being an accessory to voluntary manslaughter after the fact and served nearly a year in juvenile detention.[1]

Grant was given permission by the juvenile court to relocate to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to live with a paternal aunt and uncle. She began attending Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School in 1992, where she excelled academically, tutored impoverished children, and was co-captain of the tennis team.[1]

Admissions revocations[edit]

Grant's crime became the subject of national headlines when, in January 1995, she was given early admission to Harvard University. She also reportedly told her Harvard interviewer that her mother had died in an accident.[2] Her lawyer later argued that educational institutions are forbidden by Massachusetts state law to ask about criminal matters that do not result in "convictions". Juveniles found guilty are "adjudicated delinquent" rather than "convicted".[1] After Grant was featured in an April 2 Boston Globe Sunday Magazine article about disadvantaged students who succeeded despite their circumstances, an anonymous party faxed Harvard and The Globe copies of old news articles about the murder.[3] The next day, Harvard rescinded Grant's admission, though the college did not comment on the specific reasons for rescission, citing several possible reasons. Although Grant requested a meeting with the admissions committee to discuss their decision, Harvard refused to grant her access.[1] Some campus publications and newspapers sided with Grant, citing Grant's mother's alcoholism and Grant's allegations of physical abuse. Grant's attorney stated that Grant was not obligated to disclose an event that occurred when she was a juvenile and which was sealed upon her turning 18. Some in the press, including an editorial in The New York Times[4] and an article in the Chicago Tribune,[5] criticized Harvard for being unforgiving in rescinding its offer. Among those criticizing the admissions committee also included Harvard University professors Charles Ogletree and Alan Dershowitz.[3] Grant herself made no appearances, other than issuing a brief statement: "I deal with this tragedy every day on a personal level. It serves no good purpose for anyone else to dredge up the pain of my childhood. In addition, I have no wish to defame my mother's memory by detailing any abuse."[6] Grant had also been accepted to Columbia University, Barnard College, and Tufts University. In the controversy surrounding Harvard's decision, Columbia and Barnard also chose to rescind their acceptances without discussing the matter with Grant. Tufts University President John DiBiaggio, who had the authority to reverse the decision of the Tufts admissions committee, chose not to and indeed strongly supported their decision. Grant attended Tufts as part of the Class of 1999.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Mayer, Jane (June 5, 1995). "Rejecting Gina". The New Yorker. 
  2. ^ a b Honan, William H. (June 11, 1995). "For Student Who Killed Her Mother, Acceptance". The New York Times. Retrieved May 3, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b "Harvard rescinds admission offer after learning student killed mother". The Daily Pennsylvanian. April 17, 1995. Retrieved April 10, 2011. 
  4. ^ "Harvard's Unseemly Haste". The New York Times. April 13, 1995. p. A24. 
  5. ^ Gaines, Patricia (June 4, 1995). "When Do We Start Forgiving". Chicago Tribune. p. 6. 
  6. ^ Miller, Russell (August 27, 1995). "Teenage Rampage". Sunday Times Magazine, via the website of Mary Ellen Mark.