"The Ethicist" is Randy Cohen's long-running advice column in the New York Times. Each week, Gabriel Delahaye's "The Unethicist" will answer the same questions as "The Ethicist," with obvious differences.
In this week's installment, Keith Lublin discovers your child on MySpace and is NOT impressed, while Gabe discovers things about Keith Lublin that make him feel the same way.
I interview high-school seniors who apply to my alma mater. I routinely Google these students and discovered that one posted information on his blog that reflects poorly on him. May I ask him about the blog? May I mention it to the university? Should it affect the score I give him? — Keith Lublin, West Bloomfield, Mich.
Before I get to how appropriate it is to judge and punish children by things you learn about them through Facebook (hint: very appropriate), can we just clarify something: you Google high school students. Like, all the time. OK, Keith Lublin, just checking. Just making sure that in the course of a regular day, you trawl the internet looking for personal information on teenagers. You sound like a great candidate for your position, and for one of my favorite TV shows. I would like to applaud the University of Michigan for choosing you.
While I'm at it, I'd also like to congratulate you on your marriage to Elizabeth Dorn, in 1999, whom you met during your time at the University of Michigan's Center for Japanese Studies. It must have been disappointing to you not to get your hands on a tight little Japanese girl, but Elizabeth looks like a lot of fun for a middle aged Presbyterian from Dayton, Ohio. And now an assistant professorship in Japanese studies at Wayne State. Very nice. Keeping that red lantern burning, yes?
Google is so awesome, right, Keith? So, you guys are back from Hawaii, where Elizabeth completed her PhD at the University of Hawaii, but what I don't know is this: are you still working in finance for Citibank Group? And why did you give up Japanese? Does it ever bother you that your wife has unfailingly pursued her passion, while you seem stuck in a dogpaddling white collar profession, moving back and forth across the country to support her? Do you ever think that maybe there's more to life than eating Buddy's pizza and Googling teenagers in fucking West Bloomfield, Michigan? Or is the satisfaction enough, knowing that you stood in the way of their college careers after they made the impardonable mistake of blogging on their livejournals about the awesome gravity bong they built last weekend? You know, not everyone spent high school sitting alone in their rooms, translating the writings of Confucius and his disciples from the original, just dreaming of the day when they could meet a strong, powerful woman to take charge and give their lives meaning.
But yes. You should definitely hold any youthful indiscretion you discover over these applicants' heads. If you change just one child's life for the irremediable worse, then you will have done your job.
UPDATE: Lublin checked with the university and was told not to ask the student about the blog but to include its URL with his report.
Oh well. You did what you could. Perhaps there's a way to warn future employers about this 17-year-old's insufferable use of pun-based reworkings of Linkin Park lyrics for post titles?
Earlier: Occam's Gillette Sensor