The Writing is on the Wall
With the research community barely scratching the surface of the cyber-conduct and behaviors of college students, the recent controversy over a site that has been proliferated and abused by college students is hardly surprising. Juicycampus.com is a website that has rapidly grown from 63 to over 500 campuses across the United States in the past year and allows students to anonymously post “juicy” gossip, personal exploits, and controversial opinions, all without the threat of IP identification. Its founder claims that it is an opportunity for students to speak out without the repercussions of parents, professors and peers, but what has resulted is a site that combines the cruelty of a high school bathroom wall, the hubris of an intimate college campus social structure, and the reach of the global Web. At least fifty percent of the posts are sexually harassing towards women- and often provide the victims first and last name. As Lonsway points out, “behaviors such as rape and sexual harassment lie on a single continuum of male sexual aggression against women.” While it would be impossible to prove that posts on Juicycampus.com are the precursors to an increased level of sexual assault on a campus, it can be argued that it greatly contributes to the culture of heightened danger that college women are already exposed to.
The controversy has raised issues of freedom of speech versus campus safety at Universities across the country. Many schools have decided to allow access to the site from campus servers regardless of pressure from students and parents to block it. However, Tennessee State University blocked the site from campus servers in early November. In response, the site owner issued a statement that TSU was treating its students like children and that the University had abdicated their educational responsibilities. However, this is an obvious and cynical attempt to manipulate young people into rallying for his right to make money at the expense of their own social well being. Additionally, this accusation fails to take into account that the greater task of educators is to ensure that students accept an appropriate level of personal responsibility and accountability, not only for themselves, but also for others in their community.