February 17, 2009

Juiceless campus

Although Juicy Campus is now officially dead, it never had life at the U of C.

[img id="80795" align="alignleft"] Juicy Campus’s reign atop the college-gossip kingdom is over. The site closed up shop less than two weeks ago, citing prohibitively high overhead costs that may or may not have been related to pending lawsuits. Long before then, however, Juicy Campus became irrelevant on our campus.

After a torrid start to Juicy’s U of C page—which led to calls from third-year College Council member Jarrod Wolf to take action—the number of new posts slowed to a crawl. While the “genuine” gossip posts decreased, the amount of clearly fictitious or irrelevant entries grew exponentially. By December, a little more than three months after it blitzed Hyde Park’s IP addresses, JuicyCampus.com was effectively a non-issue.

This is in contrast to the University of Pennsylvania, for example, where the Juicy phenomenon persisted for more than a year, entrenching itself as a serious problem and drawing admonishment from student leaders and administrators alike.

What happened?

Chicago’s Juicy page, like all others, knew no boundaries, touching on promiscuous co-eds, drug use, tragedy, and everything in between. Given our student body’s propensity for self-aggrandizement, it is tempting to say that U of C students are simply morally opposed or intellectually above a forum whose most popular threads included “Who [sic] would you most like to punch in the face?”

Yet I don’t see this being the case. While many people I know claimed to effectively boycott the site, which thrived on anonymous and often destructive comments, it’s unclear whether this occurred on a large scale. It is clear, however, that on principle alone, our student body is not above anonymous mud-slinging. The site’s initial popularity essentially eliminates any such contention.

More likely, the cause of the downfall was a combination of other factors, the first being our school’s relatively small size. Using UPenn as a model for the ideal Juicy environment, let’s consider two things UPenn has that we don’t: a large undergraduate population (about twice as large as the U of C’s) and a higher proportion of Greek life (about three times as large by percentage). The latter is a typical source of fodder on Juicy Campus, something that held true at the University of Chicago as a large number of the posts involved or referred to events or members of the Greek system.

Again using UPenn as a point of reference, one will notice many similarities between the two schools—top-flight academics, an urban setting, and a common frustration at the public’s confusion between itself and a state school (Penn State). One glaring difference, however, is the campus social life. UPenn, famous as the home of well-to-do East Coast Semites, is lauded by university guidebook manufacturer College Prowler, receiving a nightlife grade of A−. Chicago, on the other hand, is famously [insert your favorite self-deprecating motto here].

This critical separation explains why our Juicy page fizzled out after its initial “success.” It appears there was a backlog of gossip on this campus; anonymous public discussion of people and events was in demand. After a couple of months, however, the juice had run dry. With little discernable social life to speak of, there was nothing to sustain the site’s ardent start.

This was further illustrated when action on the site spiked following the return of what could be classified as “the Juice.” When recent allegations swarmed around a certain Bar Night–hosting fraternity, the threads again heated up with their own accounts of the situation, complete with the usual less-than-nuanced commentary. Though unlikely, it is unclear whether or not this jump would have served as the impetus for a rejuvenation of Juicy Campus here because only a few days later—a year and a half after it was started by a former Duke fraternity president—it was officially defunct.

A number of fledgling gossip sites are ready to step in to fill the void left by this bastion of baleful banter, among them CollegeACB.com and CollegeConvo.com, both of which boast University of Chicago pages. These sites, with all the trappings of their predecessor, will inevitably suffer the same fate of the spotty postings and banality that results from our unique campus nerdery

Steve Saltarelli is a third-year in the College majoring in Law, Letters, and Society.