NEWS

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November 14, 2008

SG declines to take action against gossip website Juicy Campus

Gone are the days of reading anonymous rumors scribbled on bathroom stalls. JuicyCampus.com, an online forum where college students can discuss any topic anonymously, takes gossip online.

But it has already rubbed several University students the wrong way.

While Juicy Campus isn’t inherently offensive—some of it is benign topics include “bart mart” and “NEW dorm”—many students have been taken aback by vulgar posts on the site that name specific individuals.

Fourth-year Michelle Chun said several of her friends found themselves discussed on the website in crude language.

“We’re in college. Do we really need another opportunity to be cruel to each other?” she said. “[This] is too juvenile for college students to participate in.”

Launched last year by Duke alumnus Matt Ivester, Juicy Campus “believes very strongly in free and anonymous speech online,” according to its FAQ. “We comply with lawful subpoenas because we have to, but if some university president called us asking for a favor, we’d tell him to go screw himself.”

It also explains the site’s policy on offensive language.

“I’m offended!” reads one entry of the FAQ. The response: “Sorry. Also, that’s not a question....”

In response to the wave of interest from University students, College Council (CC) proposed actions against Juicy Campus during a meeting last week.

Jarrod Wolf, a third-year CC representative, said that he had been approached by many students and felt compelled to speak out against the site.

“Nothing positive comes from it and considering the University’s recent bouts with suicide, I feel that a website like this has the potential to do extreme amounts of harm,” he said in an e-mail interview. “University of Chicago students already have high amounts of stress.”

Wolf discussed the site at the most recent CC meeting, citing what he called its “deplorable” and “despicable” nature. He then asked members to take action.

“Do we, as heads of our student body, want to sit by as some of our fellow students breed a culture of hate and negativity, or do we want to stand up and condemn the actions of those who post on this website?” he wrote in an e-mail.

Ultimately, CC declined to recommend any specific action against the website.

Student Government (SG) President and fourth-year Matthew Kennedy said the decision not to take official action was based on SG’s powers outside the University.

“While most members of the council expressed that they thought it was a rather vulgar and nasty website, the consensus was that there is very little that SG can do,” Kennedy said in an e-mail interview.

He added his view that asking the University to ban the website from its servers was a “non-starter at any institution committed to the freedom of speech.”

Students at other universities have taken more drastic action. Pepperdine University’s student government attempted to ban Juicy Campus last winter after passing a resolution calling on school administrators to remove the website from the campus network. Administrators ultimately decided not to carry out the ban, however, out of concern that it would be set a bad precedent for other attempts at censorship.

Kennedy expressed hopes that the website would dissipate on its own.

“People grow tired of hearing themselves talk about how big (or small) so-and-so’s ‘insert body part here’ is,” he said.