A survey of 128 American Bar Association accredited law schools conducted by Kaplan Test Preparation indicates 41 percent of law school administrators used Google to learn more about candidates. 37% used Facebook. These numbers are approximately the same as the numbers for employers who use social media searches to screen job applicants.
So what the heck? What are they looking for? I wonder how much thought has gone into the process of searching the internet for information. A law school I suppose could look for a certain political affiliations or preferences, or search for persons of a particular social or economic philosophy. Columbia might turn up its nose at a social conservative or libertarian, while University of Chicago might embrace just that person. What if a candidate frequently quotes Nietzsche or Chairman Mao? Perhaps a candidate is a born again Christian who enjoys postings from scripture, or is a Muslim who comments on Middle East tensions with quotes from the Koran? A California law school candidate who expressed support or opposition to the “one man—one woman” limitation of marriage amendment to the State Constitution might not pass the “political correctness” test of some law school administrator.
The issues of how law school candidates are selected of course will be cloaked in the unwritten search criteria of the admissions officers doing the search. Further, the constitutional test of the selection will be different for private law schools versus state funded law schools. Even private non-religious law schools will be prohibited from discriminatory admissions on the basis of race, sexual orientation, gender, religion, age, or other such criteria. In California, the Unruh Civil Rights Act [CA Civ. C. Sec. 51] prohibits discriminatory business practices, and the state Constitution itself extends civil liberties protection against private (non-governmental) violations.
It seems to me however that a democracy has an inherent flaw. The people themselves may not rise to the occasion of living democratically in their best interests. For example, if a majority wishes to vote into law a social system of government benefits, there may be social costs that actually erode the enjoyment of individual freedoms as a result. Likewise, when public opinion prevails to set standards of “right conduct” or “right thinking,” individuals may have to pay a very high social price for being individually different. This form of social compulsion is as oppressive in some ways as governmental oppression. Minorities have historically been excluded from the rights and privileges of living in a free society by the force of cultural bias and discrimination of private communities. Who needs a government censor or police force when the citizenry itself marginalizes the non-conforming minority?
Law schools, medical schools, schools of architecture and engineering, schools of business and finance, schools of social and political science, all can become “clearing houses” for “right opinions.” If your personal views become the basis for screening you out as a candidate, you quickly learn to hide or modify your views in order to advance in society. The result is a poverty of viewpoints, ideas, and even innovation.
So, while having more information is good when making decisions, the real question is what are the screening criteria of the professional schools that use social media information? If people of unpopular views are excluded from the opportunities to advance in society because of unspoken filters applied by the social police, we will be living in a rather bland and uncreative society. We will have a society of “yes people” who conform to what every prevailing bias may exist. This outcome is more likely where the policing criteria are exercised by the professional schools that produce the nation’s leaders. The result is that society will ultimately suffer for a lack of vigorous debate infused with new ideas.
So, if you want to become a lawyer, or doctor, or architect, or campaign consultant, or engineer, or social worker, or government leader, and know you will be applying to graduate school, you may well now feel the pressure to dress, act, and think differently during your so called “private” time for fear either you or one of your friends will expose your “non-conforming” ideas. Maybe you will simply hide your real thoughts and feelings, and avoid expressing your true viewpoints and interests in writing, or by pictures or video. You will act “as if” you conform to the professional stereotype that a professional school is looking to admit. The problem of course is that years of pretending tend to produce the very person you are pretending to be. At the very least, the “uniqueness” of you will not be fully expressed. That will be your loss, and ours as well.