Gossip site adds BU forum

A Web site based on the idea of freedom of speech has added Bradley to its forums, but some students said they think it goes beyond the First Amendment.
JuicyCampus.com, a site where students can choose their universities and write anonymous posts on any topic, added Bradley on Sept. 29.
Since then, there have been over 200 posts, with some posts receiving more than 3,000 visits.
The site was founded in August 2007 “with the simple mission of enabling online anonymous free speech on college campuses,” according to the site.
But topics on the site can range from fairly innocent, discussing the stock market or best food on campus, to what some students call cruel and hurtful.
“It’s a degrading Web site that is doing nothing positive,” senior marketing major Lyndsey Smith said. “If your name is on it, you feel attacked, and the site puts this stuff out there because they know students will react. It gives students an outlet to air their grievances.”
A student who was mentioned on the site wrote to JuicyCampus customer service asking to have her name removed, she said.
The company’s “JuicyCampus team” responded and said while they appreciated the student’s request, “[JuicyCampus employees] take [their] users’ right to free speech very seriously.” The response said the company would not remove the derogatory comments about the student, but instead encouraged the student to post her opinion or additional information under the topic.
The student, who wishes to remain anonymous, said reading mean comments about herself made her upset, but she was more upset when the site encouraged her to engage in the gossip.
“I was really offended when they wouldn’t remove my name from the site, but it was even more horrible how they encouraged me to write back,” she said. “It’s just asking to cause more drama.”
The site blocks search engines from crawling it, meaning that if someone posts something on JuicyCampus and uses a real name, that name will not appear on JuicyCampus if it is searched using Google or another major engine.
Posts on the site have claimed University  President Joanne Glasser will attempt to shut the site down, but the university has no such plans, Vice President of Communications Shelley Epstein said.
“The university never considered filing a lawsuit,” Epstein said. “Anonymous gossip doesn’t deserve the time of students, faculty or the university community.”
Assistant Professor of Communications Greg Pitts said people are within their rights to have free speech, but the lines on what is appropriate can be blurry.
Pitts quoted Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes as saying the First Amendment wouldn’t protect someone falsely screaming “fire” in a crowded theater, and he said new technology like the Internet could relate to this.
“The Internet is not a crowded theater, but at the same time it’s a place where people can scream and be heard,” Pitts said.
Epstein said combating verbal attacks on the site would quell the site’s popularity.
“Students can ignore this, which is the best option. Don’t give students using this [site] an audience,” he said. “That, or they can work to counteract what is going on. Organize against this and say that this is not what we stand for on campus.”
Junior public relations major Meg Antal said she thinks the site is ruining Bradley’s atmosphere.
“I hate [the site],” she said. I think it is deteriorating our campus single-handedly.”
And Antal said she thinks school officials won’t be able to stop online gossip.
“Nothing can be done to curb this garbage,” she said. “… We can’t do anything to enforce it. Bradley may be able to block the site, but I don’t think [the school] will.”
Epstein said gossip isn’t new to college life, but students should realize the damage gossip can cause.
“These things are hurtful, and while some students who are participating may see them as harmless pranks, they are in fact damaging to people and that has potential for serious ramifications,” Epstein said. “Bradley is not unique to this sort of thing, but that doesn’t excuse this behavior.”
And while some students said they would never post on the site, they admit it is difficult to keep from reading others’ posts.
“I would never use this site, but I would read it,” senior music major Annie Sheehan said. “I wouldn’t use it because it’s mean, though.”
And Antal said she agreed.
“I would read it, sure, but I do not, could not, partake in the verbal abuse,” she said.
According to the JuicyCampus blog, the site added its 500th campus, Gettysburg College, to its forums.
JuicyCampus President and CEO Matt Ivester said on the blog he thought it fitting for Gettysburg to be the site’s 500th college.
“Nothing is more American than the right to Freedom of Speech,” Ivester said on the blog. “… Just as Gettysburg was the turning point during the Civil War, we hope Gettysburg will be the turning point where JuicyCampus moves past the resistance put up by campus administrations and students are free to discuss the topics that interest them most. JuicyCampus is, in Lincoln’s famous words, the Web site ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people.’ ”