Juicy Campus censorship an ‘appropriateness’ call

Samantha Donegan

Tennessee State University was the first public university to ban the JuicyCampus Web site from its computer networks and servers Nov. 12. Private universities, such as Hampton University, Belmont College and Lipscomb University, have banned the Web site as well.

JuicyCampus is a discussion forum Web site for college students to post campus hearsay to have fellow students reply and comment on. All posts are kept anonymous.

But could JuicyCampus be banned from Kent State as well?

Greg Jarvie, associate vice president and dean of students of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, said the overall inappropriateness should be looked at by the university to see if there is something that could be done about the Web site.

“We would have to take a look at the big picture and the betterment of the entire university community,” he said. “This has obviously become a site unfortunately where there is a lot of people who have been hurt with some of the stuff that has been written.”

Some of the forum topics on the Kent State page include: “Big whores on campus, Let’s here um,” “Who would you wanna hook u with?” and “Hott KSU girls..list.”

Tennessee State’s weekly student newspaper, The Meter, reported Nov. 17 that its vice president of student affairs, Michael Freeman, spoke with the president of the student government association and administrators and decided to ban the site after receiving a phone call from a concerned parent.

Brandon Walsh, acting manager of Information Services Security and Access Management at Kent State, said banning JuicyCampus theoretically could be done.

“There is nothing technically preventing that from happening, but that is not a practice that we normally do,” he said. “We don’t make judgment calls on what people should or should not be viewing on the Internet.”

Walsh said security and access management doesn’t have an opinion on the Web site and the fact that other universities are banning the site is not a reason to block it nor to condone it.

JuicyCampus CEO and President Matt Ivester wrote a forum letter to The Meter and said Tennessee State was “joining the ranks of the Chinese government in Internet censorship and spitting in the faces of everyone who believes in free discourse online.”

At the end of his letter, Ivester said JuicyCampus believes the answer to bad speech is good speech, not censorship, and JuicyCampus encourages students who disagree with certain comments to reply to those comments with additional information and their own opinions.

Jarvie said he had one complaint in mid-November from a mother who called when her daughter informed her that she was concerned about stuff that was written about her on JuicyCampus. He said he was still waiting for the student to follow up.

“I don’t think we have a right legally to do anything,” Jarvie said. “That becomes a matter between the student and the Web page developer.”

According to federal law, Juicy Campus is immune from liability arising from content posted by users.

Even though her name has been mentioned on the site, Lauren Mazza, sophomore broadcast journalism major, said she doesn’t think JuicyCampus should be banned.

“There should be freedom of speech,” Mazza said. “In general, I think the site is childish and very high school. I think the people who go on it and write things about people need to get a life.”

Jarvie said the university obviously respects free speech, but it’s a matter of what students are doing with that speech in regard to the appropriateness of it because he has concern that there is no way to know who the author is.

“Anybody could be out there throwing that stuff on there,” Jarvie said. “And really, by law, I am sure this could be put under the category of slander, and I think those individuals could have some legal recourse. I don’t want to see any of our students get hurt.”

Contact reporter Samantha Donegan at [email protected].