New gossip Web site draws concern

The juice is loose on GW’s campus and not everyone is thrilled about it.

The controversial gossip Web site, which launched a GW page last month, encourages students to post anonymously about people and groups on campus. Student leaders and administrators across the country have condemned the site for promoting slanderous and damaging discussions about students’ private lives.

The forum allows anyone, including people unaffiliated with the University, to post or read content about a range of subjects – with full names included. Some of these topics: “Biggest Slut on Campus,” “Most Surprising Gay Guys” and “Best Places to Get High on Campus.”

Student Association Executive Vice President Kyle Boyer, a junior, said members of the senate were discussing whether or not to attempt to block Juicy Campus at GW, but they had not reached a concrete decision.

“We are very well aware of some of the things other schools have done,” he said in reference to actions taken at Georgetown and Pepperdine University to ban the site.

University spokeswoman Tracy Schario said administrators are looking at the steps other campuses are taking to curb the problem.

“We’ve certainly been monitoring the challenges that other universities have had with the Web site,” Schario said. “We are aware that there’s a GW page on Juicy Campus and that this particular Web site has attracted a lot of negative attention. But in general, we don’t block Web sites.” creator Matt Ivester said it is, “first and foremost, an entertainment site.”

“We’re not trying to be up on a soapbox for free speech,” said Ivester, a Duke University alumnus. “We’re not trying to be the forum where serious, deep, intellectual, existentialist conversations are happening.”

Two student blogs, the GW Patriot and The Colonialist, recently started a campaign to fill Juicy Campus with random spam from Wikipedia and other sites, in order to drown out the harmful gossip.

“We’re posting stuff that has as much value as what’s already being posted,” Colonialist blogger Kirk Larsen said. “We decided to do it as a sort of counterpose to the stuff being posted.”

Larsen added that JuicyCampus is “very much not anonymous” and warned that people could be held accountable for what they post.

Colonialist blogger Travis Helwig added, “I think there’s a lot of other people who feel that this has no positive worth at the University.”

Bob Kickish, president of the Interfraternity Council, argued that the postings on the site are more than just harmless fun.

“Anyone can create a rumor out of thin air and the false nature of their posts bears no consequence to them,” said Kickish, a senior. “The rumors that they are posting, however, have the potential to destroy the reputations of many innocent students.”

Sophomore William Morse said the site’s anonymity makes it easy to offend people without consequences.

“It’s terrible because you’re able to leave comments anonymously, in a way that you’re not accountable for what you say,” Morse said. “You can’t take responsibility for it; it’s just out there.”

The site was originally launched late last year at seven colleges and universities.

“What we found when we launched on a campus, it didn’t take very long before students were using it and talking about it,” Ivester said. “It was an incredibly viral Web site.”

It now has reached 500 campuses, according to the site, and has garnered unfavorable publicity along the way.

In May, the ABC News show “20/20” featured a story about a student at Vanderbilt University who was the victim of a rape at the hands of an unknown assailant. After leaving school for a semester to try to recover, 20-year-old Chelsea Gorman returned to find that someone had written offensive posts about her on Juicy Campus.

“It takes the control away again,” Gorman said at the time. “It’s my story to tell, and no one else has the right to tell it. And that something like this was considered gossip is disgusting.”

-Nathan Grossman contributed to this report.

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