Colleges gossip online

Heather Tomko Feb 18, 2008

Hello there, Upper East Siders — or is it upperclassmen? It seems that Gossip Girl has a rival in the new Juicy Campus (www.juicycampus.com), a website that dishes out all the latest gossip for more than 50 college campuses across the nation.

Juicy Campus was founded at Duke University in August 2007 by Matt Ivester, as an anonymous way to post light gossip for entertainment. The site has only increased in popularity since then.

“I think on college campuses every day across the country, there are hilarious, entertaining, and fun stories being made. And Juicy Campus is a great place to collect those stories,” Ivester stated in the Daily Illini, the student newspaper for the University of Illinois.

However, as the number of colleges that Juicy Campus covered grew, so did the type of gossip that the site covered. The site allows anyone to post on the site anonymously, after creating an account; because of this, the site includes gossip that is sometimes more than just lighthearted and entertaining.

“In a perfect world, I imagine people would realize that a site like juicycampus.com unfairly picks its targets and acts adversarial to them,” said Eli Gwynn, Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Science alum and junior software engineer at OkCupid.com, an online dating site. “Once realizing this, they’d see how damaging it is to society and dismiss it as form of entertainment. In our decidedly imperfect world, people love their gossip.”

Juicy Campus has become especially popular among Greek communities.

In the site’s Frequently Asked Questions section, Ivester noted some key ideology behind the website.

“Facts can be untrue. Opinions can be stupid, or ignorant, or mean-spirited, but they can’t be untrue,” Ivester wrote. “And we believe everyone is entitled to their opinion.”

These opinions are causing uproar at colleges and universities across the nation.

At Pepperdine University, students were so against the site that the concern prompted a student government resolution last month. The Government voted 23–5 to ban Juicy Campus from the campus network.

However, students continue to post daily on the site and many advocate the service for its principle of anonymous gossip.

There are a number of Facebook groups praising Juicy Campus for its fun and, as some have posted, “harmless” gossip.

However, the description of this site as “harmless” is up for debate, as there are just as many Facebook groups urging people to stop using the website.

“The glory of anonymous praise is much less potent than the shame of anonymous condemnation,” Gwynn noted.

Despite the uproar, an open-forum website allowing people to post anonymous comments is nothing new to scandal.

“I don’t think it’s anything ground breaking. It’s yet another ‘Web 2.0’ scheme of getting your users to provide all of your content for you. Their gimmick is that you can post anonymously,” Gwynn said. “Ultimately, I think its success will be limited to its own subculture of people who thrive on lots of gossip, if it takes off at all. There’s only so far you can get with a system that throws accountability out the window.”

A similar issue happened last year with www.autoadmit.com, a college admissions discussion forum.

When a group of law students started posting offensive comments against female classmates, the offended parties took legal action.

However, as the comments were anonymous, the case was hard to come by.

Legally, the websites themselves are protected not only by precedent of the First Amendment, but also by a section of the Communications Decency Act, which holds that the user of an interactive computer service cannot be held as the speaker of comments that are posted by another Internet content provider.

The people that post the comments are another story.

Yet, anonymity is a protection itself as these speakers cannot be directly identified.

Students at Carnegie Mellon may not have heard of Juicy Campus, as the university does not have any gossip postings as of yet. However, the nearby University of Pittsburgh has racked up quite a bit of gossip.

Popular gossip topics at Pitt include “Sluttiest Boy on Campus” and “Hottest Frat Boy.” The site also includes tabs that sort the gossip into categories such as “Sports/Athletes” and “Greek Organizations,” as well a feature honoring the “juiciest” posts of the day.

Mary Grace DeForest, senior mathematics major and president of the Panhellenic Council, the governing body of sororities at Carnegie Mellon, is not a supporter of the site; she does not believe that Juicy Campus would positively affect the Greek community here.

“There does not seem to be anything positive coming from this. My hope is that at Carnegie Mellon, we can work together to create a more cohesive and supportive Greek community,” DeForest said.

With the already competitive and driven atmosphere at Carnegie Mellon, one can only imagine what would happen if students began posting gossip on Juicy Campus.

“It seems as though it is a way to gossip in a very negative manner,” DeForest said. “We do not need any more venues in which to allow for gossip and speculation.”