Gossip web sites remain popular on campus

Juicy Campus met its end in February 2009 as sponsors backed out and denied the Web site the advertising revenue it needed to continue its gossip services, but multiple Web sites have sprung up to fill the gap.

However, two of the more popular sites among college students nationwide have had minimal use by Seton Hall students.

One site has had a total of six posts and two replies to its Seton Hall University section from this semester, while the other, has yet to have any Seton Hall-related content.

While those interviewed by The Setonian were unaware of the new gossip Web sites, Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Karen Van Norman said that the administration is aware of these sites.

The Juicy Campus Web site encouraged students to gossip about their peers in an anonymous online forum.

Sophomore Mike Gerlach, who was the subject of a Juicy Campus thread and multiple posts said he thinks gossip sites are a waste of time.

Gerlach said the Web site seems to be for those with out confidence who feel that they need to be popular.

“(They) are only used by people with a lack of self-confidence who only are trying to make themselves feel better by writing things about another person who, from what I saw, is generally a person around campus whom most people know and like,” Gerlach said. “Juicy Campus was a horrible idea which people were hurt by and took personally although it was just people who wanted to start rumors about other individuals.”

While much of Juicy Campus’s content consisted of personal attacks, some of it slanderous, few students approached the Seton Hall administration for aid or advice in dealing with postings about them.

“There were certainly less than 10, maybe half a dozen,” Christopher Kuretich, associate dean of students said.

Van Norman said students came to the university wanting to know if Seton Hall could do anything about the Juicy Campus posts, but, because Seton Hall did not control Juicy Campus there was nothing the university could do.

“The advice we gave them was to contact the Attorney General of New Jersey because, at the time, the attorney general’s office was conducting an investigation into those sites, we encouraged them to complain to the site directly, and, this did not happen at Seton Hall to my knowledge, but I know that at other institutions, students undertook lawsuits against Juicy Campus,” Van Norman said.

Juicy Campus was the target of criticism nationwide. The Chronicle of Higher Education reported in its Aug. 31, 2009 issue, “A few students sued (Juicy Campus) several student governments passed resolutions condemning the site; at least two colleges blocked campus access to it; and the attorney general in two states opened investigations into its business practices,” but none of those actions seemed to affect the site.

It was not until sponsors backed out and left the site without advertising revenue that the Web page was shut down.

Kuretich and Van Norman expressed their disappointment with The Setonian for running an article about the new Web sites, fearing that by providing press for the gossip sites they would see a massive influx of Seton Hall users and content.

“I would hate for the newspaper to be the reason students’ attention is drawn to these sites,” Kuretich said. “I think that when Juicy Campus died, the whole gossip craze has died with it.”

Van Norman said she is “disappointed The Setonian has decided to give valuable ink and space to something like this.”

However, Associate Professor of Sociology Leslie Bunnage said while there is some risk that coverage would fuel the sites, she said that she views the sites and coverage as “a kind of teaching moment that is kind of invaluable.”

“This enables them to have a vehicle to have an important educational and political moment where they can see what their peers are writing about each other and bring a critical eye to it,” Bunnage said. “It’s important to them and it resonates to them because it is a real quote, so they can really look at issues like gender and age that doesn’t have the disconnection it might have if they are reading an article by a scholar.”
Bunnage said that she thinks it reflects very positively on the campus that the gossip sites haven’t taken off.

“I think that the university coming out against them is important, but you can’t have the discussion (about the issues they present) if they are swept under the rug,” Bunnage said.

The impact of gossip on individuals differs from person to person, but Bunnage said that social conditioning often affects how a person might take an offensive post.

“In our society, as a woman if you are attractive you are given a lot of credit,” Bunnage said. “You are considered more worthy if you are sexy and good looking. We are being trained to garner that kind of attention. It does not mean that it is a good thing, but it means that sometimes if you get put on a gossip site states that you really hot and implies that you are slutty, you might not actually feel that slammed by it.”

The reasons students post damaging remarks about each other online differ, according to Bunnage, but much of it deals with changing the established social hierarchy.

Bunnage said she feels the issue is not really about needing to perpetuate the story, the rumor or slanderous material.

Instead, it is about taking power or control in some way as much as possible over a social scene.

“Every context is different, but sociologically speaking, that is probably the best explanation,” Bunnage said.

Brenden Higashi can be reached at brenden.higashi@student.shu.edu.

Author: Staff Writer

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