Attention: parents. Add JuicyCampus.com to the list of things your kid already knows that you might want to investigate.
Add JuicyCampus.com to the list of things your kid already knows that you might want to investigate.
In Web-years, which are sort of like dog-years on steroids, your teen or young adult probably considers this 13-month old site flabby and middle-aged. But gossip is eternal. JuicyCampus is an updated way for any vicious spirit to shred your kid - anonymously and globally - while cloaking itself with the right to free speech.
For example, Friday's charming topics included "Dirty whore!!" "Fat people are funny." "Who is still a virgin?" And "I'm Still Drunk! This is Awesome!"
For a moment, it seemed "The Solution to Homelessness and World Hunger" aimed for a higher plane. But let's just say that the unfortunate Michelle mentioned in this post would probably prefer her gonads were not involved in the plan.
Pam Conlon of Western Springs asked this be brought to your attention. Her daughter Erin is/soon-to-be-was a student at Bradley University. JuicyCampus is not the only reason the sophomore will transfer to Western Illinois University, but it is a big reason. Pam is upset about the site, and she is upset because she doesn't think Bradley has done enough to fight it.
"We felt, and still feel, that a mass e-mail should have been sent to the community," Pam says.
Last spring, JuicyCampus involved 60 schools. A 2005 Duke University grad named Matt Ivester started it as a "100% anonymous" way to post college dirt. Many people do. There are now 500 colleges involved.
"I'm sure his parents are so proud after all the money they spent at Duke," Pam says.
Bradley was added in September. By mid-October, five to 10 students and parents had contacted school administrators because of the nasty posts, which included racial slurs. In Erin's case, the anonymous somebody threatened to set her hair on fire, along with some general vileness. Since it was a threat, that posting was deleted.
Pam Conlon says Erin tried to contact Bradley president Joanne Glasser but never received a reply. Her husband, Bob, who is an attorney, called the office six times. Perhaps it was a coincidence, but the Conlons say Glasser didn't e-mail back until they spoke with one of Bob's former colleagues, who is a Bradley trustee. Then they had discussions with Vice President for Student Affairs Alan Galsky. They say they were told Bradley had investigated and intended to ignore JuicyCampus, advising its students to do the same. The Conlons disagreed and sent a letter to the Bradley Parent Association.
Particularly given some of the horrific blow-ups on college campuses in the last couple of years - and considering that Glasser herself was a target for some of the anonymous abuse - Pam Conlon says, "I just feel very disappointed they didn't take a more proactive stance on this."
Bradley spokesman Shelley Epstein says he understands the Conlons' concerns.
"We have discussed them at length," he says. "We have acted in a way we think is in the best interest of the entire student body. This is a serious issue for us, too."
He says Bradley consulted with several other universities, local and federal authorities, students, trustees and the parents' organization. In the resulting message to parents, Glasser called JuicyCampus "despicable," with some "reprehensible" messages. Still, she said the consensus is that the best course of action is: Don't read it. Don't respond to it. Don't discuss it. Don't participate. The administration thought it sent that message through the student newspaper, The Bradley Scout. They figure JuicyCampus will wither away without attention.
Earlier this year, an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education said that was the best suggestion to deal with the gossip phenomenon. It also mentioned asking the site to tone it down, as the Conlons did by removing the post, or a blockade, as Tennessee State University did last week.
The latter is "un-American," according to JuicyCampus founder Ivestor. "In America, everyone has the right to speak freely and without being censored."
But anonymously? My interpretation, an enhanced version of "chicken," could be posted there, but not printed here. Ivestor calls anonymous postings a "double-edged sword," intended to be honest, not mean-spirited. He said the comment "someone should torch that (hair)" was not a serious threat, although they scrubbed it anyway.
"If it's an actual physical threat, we'll happily remove it," he says.
As far as watching his site wither, Ivestor has other plans. He says there are 2,400 four-year colleges in the U.S. He hopes JuicyCampus will be at all of them. And then?
"Someday, I can definitely see us going into an office space or areas," he says.
JuicyOffice? Attention: Dwight Schrute . . .
Terry Bibo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (309) 686-3189.