The Arizona Desert Lamp

Gossip furl

Posted in Culture, Media, Politics by Connor Mendenhall on 6 February 2009

Constructive discourse at its finest.A peeved legion of college administrators and a pair of Attorneys General couldn’t shut down Juicy Campus, but the invisible hand will have the final say on the fate of the controversial online clearinghouse for anonymously-posted college gossip. As Inside Higher Ed reports, the much-maligned website is shutting down as ad revenues decline:

In an e-mail Wednesday, the site’s founder acknowledged that some advertisers were wary of JuicyCampus.

“It is no surprise that JuicyCampus’ content limited our advertiser base,” [Juicy Campus founder Matt] Ivester wrote. “Disney was never going to put an ad on JuicyCampus. However, there were plenty of brands that loved our demographic, our traffic, and even some that embraced the controversy. Unfortunately, everyone has been hit by this economic downturn and advertising budgets are often amongst the first things cut.”

University apparatchiks and smeared students insisted that Juicy Campus was little more than a wretched hive of scum and villainy, while Ivester argued the site was merely dedicated to “online anonymous free speech on college campuses.” Regardless of purpose, Juicy was an outstanding field specimen of Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory, packed with trash talking trolls and nasty personal attacks.

Of course, speech by trash talking trolls is still free speech, and though I can’t say I’m sad to see Juicy Campus go, the site’s brief existence had some value, if only because it exposed the tendency of student governments and college administrators to try and protect students from mean people By Any Means Necessary. Pepperdine’s student government passed a resolution 23-5 (!) to censor the website on campus, and the Vice President of Tennessee State University banned the site from university networks by edict. Meanwhile, loads of other officials faced the dilemma described by Gwendolyn Dungy: “You can’t do anything about it, but parents expect something to be done.” It’s easy to muffle free speech–especially when it cuts down on the noise from all those choppers hovering a few meters overhead.

UA’s own Dean of Students office deserves credit for resisting the overprotective urge when it comes to grimy gossip sites. Last year in the Wildcat, Anthony Skevakis, then the judicial affairs coordinator for the Dean of Students office, explained that “our code of conduct does not extend to social sites” and that “if a university like ours decides to ban something from a network, it would usually have to be related to a user agreement policy issue or an issue with campus use, not with the type of speech they’re using”–both perfectly reasonable approaches to student speech online.

Plus, just like the National Enquirer occasionally rakes a big story out of the muck, gossip sites occasionally keep campus notables accountable–like last year, when The Dirty posted an alarming video apparently showing UA defensive end Josh Lewis engaged in questionably consensual sex at a poolside bacchanal. Not pretty, but better than simply allowing the athletic department to hush things up.

Juicy Campus may be gone, but that doesn’t mean college administrators and student governments will stop trying to quash free speech to placate parents. And even though it’s easy to gripe about gossip, even nasty speech can serve a purpose.

(photo via flickr user magikxerox)

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One Response

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  1. Laura Donovan said, on 6 February 2009 at 9:00 am

    This reminds me of junior high school problems. No matter how much the principal tells one student to stop harassing another, it will keep happening, or at least it did in my case. Pathetic students who have time to go to Juicy Gossip will still find a way to tear down others they don’t like.

    I’m glad Juicy Campus is shutting down, however. The concept of the website may technically be legal, but it’s immoral and very mean-spirited, and the website promotes and enables slander.


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