Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Silence Is Golden

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One would think that a fellow as bright as Kiwi Camara, who skipped high school and earned his doctorate in law magna cum laude from Harvard Law School at the impressively young age of nineteen, would have known better than to commit to paper and to the Worldwide Web a racial epithet. From this article in the April 3, 2007 Washington Post:
During Camara's first year at Harvard Law School in 2002, he fueled a controversy when he wrote racist remarks in a voluminous summary of a 1948 Supreme Court decision that barred restrictive covenants based on race. He then posted the writing on a Web site designed to help other law students.

In the five years since he wrote the racist phrase, it has surfaced from campus to campus, job interview to job interview -- a predicament that raises a broader question perfectly fit for these Google times: What's the appropriate standard for judging a teenager years later?


At George Mason's law school, the faculty had authorized Polsby to hire Camara as an assistant professor, but the dean wanted to first see what students, alumni and others thought. He scheduled a town hall meeting for last night, but the meeting was nixed after Camara's application was withdrawn.

...Some wondered why Camara had made it as far as he did in the hiring process; others were more sympathetic to the fact that Camara cannot shake off something he did when he was not even 18.
Yes, Camar was not yet eighteen, but he was in Harvard Law School. Furthermore, according to the Washington Post, on his web site Camara invites his readers to "Google me!"

On a regular basis, the nightly news broadcasts stories about the foolish and dangerous activities in which teens participate on the Internet. Some young people, of course, place themselves in physical danger, particularly with regard to pedophiles trolling the Web.

But the Web holds other traps too. As the story of Kiwi Camara indicates, the relative permanency of what all of us write and publish on the Internet can impact professional careers several years later, even to the extent of "career suicide." The childhood chant "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" is no longer true. We live in the Information Age, and technology can find us out.

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posted by Always On Watch @ 4/03/2007 08:44:00 AM