Is the Juice worth the squeeze?

This has been the question on many University of Richmond students' and administrators' minds for weeks, since the university surfaced on Juicycampus.com, a forum launched on Oct. 24, 2007, intended to allow anonymous free speech on college campuses, according to the Web site.

Topics listed under the Richmond thread include: "bitches," "slutty freshmen" and "guys who suck in bed," as well as posts referencing Greek organizations and athletes.

One Richmond College student, whose name was withheld for privacy, said his fraternity was slandered on Juicy Campus. But the student said he had not been affected by the comments.

"This Web site carries about as much weight as the writing on the bathroom walls," he said.

Although some students are able to dismiss the Web site's content, others are concerned about themselves and their friends. A number of students have sought support from Westhampton College Dean Juliette Landphair, Richmond College Dean Joseph Boehman, the Chaplaincy and Counseling and Psychological Services, Landphair said, noting that there was no way to tell how many other faculty and staff members had been approached by victims and friends of victims.

A Westhampton College student who was listed as one of Richmond's "hottest girls," said she was disappointed to see her name on Juicy Campus.

"The words themselves weren't hurtful," she said. "But I personally don't want to be associated with the Web site, regardless of the comments.

"I don't want it to be a place for people to talk about me, or anyone."

Generra Peck, Westhampton College Government Association president, has heard students' concerns and has begun to organize a student and administrative response on campus.

"I hate to see organizations pinned against each other," Peck said. "I hate to see people singled out and targeted."

Peck heard about the Web site roughly three weeks ago from a friend, she said, and consulted Landphair. After researching the Web site, Peck learned that during October, Juicy Campus went from featuring about 60 schools to more than 500 colleges and universities.

Peck then contacted student government presidents from other universities that had been affected by Juicy Campus to discuss various responses and alternatives.

"I'm on a listserv of about 100 or 200 student government organizations throughout the country," Peck said. "I e-mailed them saying 'Juicy Campus has come to Richmond, what did your schools do? What's the response? What are things like now?'"

Some students have taken matters into their own hands, according to a March 28, 2008, article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, which said students had attacked the Web site by posting long, off-topic messages or setting up software robots to send hundreds of messages in an attempt to crash the site.

"If the Web site is really bothering you," Landphair said, "infiltrate it and cut and paste pages and pages of notes or something, like students have done on other campuses. Infiltrate it and put nonsensical things on there."

Other schools, such as the University of San Diego, have banned the Web site on campus so it could not be accessed from the university's server.

Troy Burroughs, information services specialist at Richmond, said the university had the technology to block a Web site from campus. But the Web site could be bypassed in several ways, he said, citing that students could still access the Web site from cell phones and off-campus locations.

"Even if we could block the Web site," Landphair said, "the implications for free speech and censorship are pretty significant."

Additionally, a ban could only work for so long because there are other types of Web sites like Juicy Campus, Peck said, adding that Web sites that made money would be repeated by other Web sites.

Banning Juicy Campus would also require administrators to consider banning Web sites such as ratemyprofessors.com, Peck said, which is an anonymous forum for students to discuss their perceptions of professors. Although this Web site is tamer than Juicy Campus, there are statements regarding professors that could be detrimental to their careers, she added.

"Assuming that the campus won't shut down this site," Landphair said, "the next step for the administration would be to work with students in thinking about how we respond with integrity to this trashy Web site."

The overwhelming response by other universities was that quelling the effects of Juicy Campus would involve a change of culture rather than a change of policy, Peck said.

In discussing how to address the Web site on campus, Peck met with the presidents of the Richmond College Student Government Association, Interfraternity Council, Panhellic Council, Jepson Student Government Association and Robins School of Business Student Government Association. The leaders of these organizations composed a letter to the student body addressing the Web site. *

"I would love our campus community to be bigger than this and not write on it," Peck said, "knowing that it will affect friends, classmates, hall mates."

Most of these effects involve bullying, Landphair said. But students have also expressed concern about potential ramifications for the future, namely regarding employment and legal implications of comments made on the Web site.

Joseph Testani, associate director at the Career Development Center, said he did not think Juicy Campus would affect employment opportunities.

Unlike Facebook and MySpace, which companies sometimes use to gain insight into potential employees, Juicy Campus is different because there is no way of verifying the information posted on the site, Testani said.

"Students aren't posting about themselves," he said. "It's more on the periphery because there's no way to verify anything on it."

Juicy Campus is also more difficult to access than Web sites such as MySpace and Facebook because it is not searchable, said Matt Ivester, founder and CEO of Juicy Campus, at an Oct. 28, 2008, conference at Georgetown University.

"If someone's name gets posted on Juicy Campus and their name gets Googled," Ivester said, "they're not going to get results from Juicy Campus."

Regardless of whether companies access the site, students should be aware of their virtual profiles, Testani said.

In addition to expressing employment concerns, many students worried that incriminating comments written on Juicy Campus could prompt a police investigation. Although a charge cannot be made based on anonymous posts, these posts have the potential to be used by the Richmond Police Department as an investigatory tool, Landphair said.

The police department plans to treat Juicy Campus as it does Facebook and MySpace, said Richmond Police Lt. John Jacobs, citing that the comments are posted as public information. If a comment is seen as a threat and calls for investigation, the police department will look into it, he said.

Such an incident occurred at Colgate University last year, according to a March 12, 2008, article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. A student was arrested because of a threatening post on Juicy Campus.

"I wonder if I could shut down the school by saying I'm going to shoot as many people as I can in my second class tomorrow," the student, George So, posted on Juicy Campus. "I hope I get more than 50."

Although the student said he was joking, the message was reported to campus police, who arrested So after tracing the Internet address used to post the message.

Although a comment like this has not been posted on the Richmond Juicy Campus thread, if a threat arose on the site, Richmond administrators might get involved, Landphair said, citing the Bias Response Team, which was established during the summer to coordinate institution-wide responses to bias incidents.

"We'd have to think about whether the comment was something that undermined the safety of our learning environment," Landphair said. "If so, that's when the Bias Response Team would gather."

Whether or not Juicy Campus becomes salient on our campus is something that students have to decide, Landphair said.

"I have such high expectations for our students," she said. "I know that some people might think I'm naive, but I think we will respond with integrity."

* Read the Juicy Campus response letter here.

Contact writer Carly Gorga at carly.gorga@richmond.edu

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