Notes on a Scandal: “This is a university, not communist China.”

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Another certain gossipy website was the focus of last night’s CCSC meeting. Satow Room bureau chief Martha Turewicz reports. 

From the first few minutes of last night’s CCSC meeting, there some early indications of the intensity to come. Proceedings started a few minutes past 8, and while the next hour was lost to constitutional review, VP of Campus Life Lindsey Lazopoulos (who is always good for a quote) noted, “This is going to get heated.”

CCSC President Michelle Diamond, coming straight from a bridal shower, explained that she was going on 2 hours of sleep and had a thesis draft due the next day. If she became snappy, she warned: “It’s not personal.”

But around 9 PM the room suddenly filled with people eager to discuss the night’s pressing topic:   

Neda Navab and Diamond opened the discussion with unbiased terms, and asked that audience members’ comments go off the record, an attempt to establish a calm forum  swiftly undermined by John Davisson (former Spec Editor-in-Chief), who retorted that since this was a public forum, it couldn’t be treated as a closed discussion. Diamond rather tersely responded matter-of-factly that you could keep things off the record. Eventually, some sort of nebulous compromise was reached on the matter.

Although the room unanimously expressed disgust over the content of the site, reactions were split into two camps over if and how the university should respond to its presence. Some, like Diamond and Lazopoulos, noted that if the postings on juicycampus were written in a physical forum, like on a campus building, they would be immediately removed.

Others were quick to challenge this. Glenn Thompson asked how many sites CU is currently blocking; Diamond acknowledged that none are currently blocked. VP of Policy Alidad Damooei was on the fence, noting that CUIT expressed concern that blocking the site would lead its creator to relocate to a new forum, one that would possibly show up onGgoogle searches, thus rendering blockage a counterproductive measure.

George Krebs introduced the much-repeated dialectic of a “slippery slope” of precedents that banning the site would entail. He proposed that CCSC advocate to sue the site over libelous content.

Michelle noted that the site’s disclaimer says juicycampus can’t be sued, to which George responded that anyone can say they can’t be sued.

Nathan Morgante, speaking on the behalf of Free Culture Columbia, defended free speech, brought up the issue of shaky legal ground (currently, an FCC gudieline prevents private internet distributors from banning sites—unfortunately Morgante lost the sheet of paper he had confirming this), and raised the point that allowing ourselves to be threatened by “anonymous idiots” reduces us to their level.

Brendan Charney, former president of the Columbia ACLU chapter, pithily suggested that in lieu of resorting to censorship (“This is a university, not communist China”), we should “fight bad words with good words.” Alidad seconded this optimistic rhetoric, championing a focus on “not what divides us, but what unites us.” Ooh, topical.

The meeting ended, however, without a clear resolution of the legion proposals. Perhaps it would have been best if everyone simply adopted the blasé tone of Andrew Avor, who, while acknowledging the harmful content of the site, finds it “ignorable”, and did not feel that it merited so much attention and discussion.

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  1. ...  

    Bwog coverage > Spec coverage.

    JuicyCampus Scandal: Bwog-1, Spec-0

  2. juicy  

    Please fix the link

  3. Really  

    This is why we elected Michelle Diamond? So she can have a town hall meeting because some idiots made fun of her on a web site? Racial slurs are used every day on Bored@Butler but THIS is an outrage?

    • Anonymous  

      Yeah, I'm gonna have to agree. Welcome to elected life, sweetheart. Men and women a thousand times better than you get torn to shreds on anonymous forums every day since the world wide web was created.

      Instead of banning the internets or trying to curb tendencies of people to be loudmouth jerks when no one is watching, how's aboot you just deal with it?

  4. Anonymous  

    The claim that other schools have banned the site is false. Pepperdine's student council voted to *ask* for a ban, but the school has refused to put it into effect. The Duke administration asked the site's creator to moderate it, but they did not block access.

    In fact, this CNN article suggests that no colleges have actually banned access to the site:

    I have so far been unable to find a single reputable source that says any colleges have censored the site. Bwog, please update the post.

  5. alexw

    Someone said it in the other thread, but CCSC has no business telling you and me what sites we can and cannot visit.

  6. sigh  

    Did anyone in that room take Bollinger's FoS class? Krebs, a university can't sue someone on behalf of libelous content posted about one of its students; it wouldn't have standing. The website is also correct about being immune from a lawsuit. Websites can't be sued for libelous comments made by posters, which is why Bwog can't be sued for its own readers being jackasses.

    • correction  

      Krebs actually proposed that the CCSC do what it can to help sue the libelers (i.e. - the commenters themselves) rather than the site. JuicyCampus may not keep one-to-one logs of IPs and comments, but that information is always discoverable by law enforcement (as in the fellow who was kicked out of school for issuing a death threat on the site). I don't know how likely it is that a libel suit could forcibly reveal that information, or whether a case could be successfully built on it, but the possibility exists.

      • correction part deux  

        to help affected students sue the libelers*

      • correct  

        the site's "terms and conditions" ( state that no user can post content that is "defamatory, obscene, libelous." anyone who has been on the site would agree that that material is being posted. because the site is hosting that information and has the ability to ensure its removal, krebs is correct in arguing to sue the site. having pithy council members ban the site because people have posted about them is foolish.

        • rebuttal  

          That's like saying Youtube's terms and conditions say no copyrighted material can be posted, thus Youtube can be sued. JuicyCampus can be asked to take down defamatory material, but I doubt they can be sued for not doing it immediately. As for IP logs, I think most sites rotate their logs daily, and if I were administrating JuicyCampus, I certainly wouldn't make any effort to store that kind of info. They could be subpoenaed but I don't think they would have useful information to testify to. Basically, just suck it up guys.

        • addendum  

          That makes logical and ethical sense, but federal law grants Web sites immunity from libel claims arising from user-generated material (unless the site makes a substantive contribution to the content, which doesn't seem to be the case here):

          Juicycampus isn't in a position to judge what's libelous and what's not, so the material can stay up short of a court order. (Also, for something to be deemed libelous, the plaintiff normally has to demonstrate that he/she suffered tangibly, which is not always a slam dunk.)

          Either way, I agree that the council shouldn't ban the site.

  7. dumb  

    Let CCSC pass their meaningless "resolutions". It's not like this ban is ever going to happen.

    How do I start a recall election against Michelle Diamond?

  8. can  

    a law-schooler confirm this? it all sounds like speculation without a pro in the mix somewhere.

  9. I hear

    that V-show took it up the b**t from Bwog last semester in Lerner party space. ballin'

  10. Hypocrites  

    Once again, this proves that this campus, from President Bollinger to President Diamond, cares absolutely nothing for the true definition of free speech. The same people who hailed Ahmadinejad's arrival as a beacon of free speech activity are now attempting to shut down a website beacuse the trick got played on them. Correct me if I'm wrong, but if Michelle Diamond wants to get into politics, or business, or anything in life, she better get used to this kind of treatment. Same for the sorority chicks. Trying to shut down a website is just a bratty way of trying to muscle people around. I'm sure a shitload of politicians would love to shut down Drudge Report, but that doesn't mean they can or should. No matter how sanctimonious, Charney basically got it right. You don't fight hate speech--or in this case, just plain nasty gossip--by trying to shut it down. The hypocrisy just reeks.

  11. to be honest  

    I don't go to that shithole of a website, but now that everyone's crying about it, I wanna see what the fuss is about.

  12. this is

    why CCSC is a waste of time.

    You spend HOURS debating whether or not to ASK CUIT to BAN a website, which:
    1. CUIT won't.
    2. even if a ban does take place, will have no effect.

    $500 that CUIT won't "ban" the site.

    Who wants to short me?

  13. Michelle Diamond  

    Oh noes, someone on the internets doesn't like me!

  14. ...  

    heres an idea: how 'bout ccsc just stops talking about it and maybe it will go away? it is only a scandal if THEY keep it going.

    cant wait to hear what comes out of their "emergency meeting" about it today.

  15. ...  

    also, post 20 is right on. i hadnt heard of the website until diamond through a bitchfit. then she was the first person i searched.

  16. censorship

    It is truly absurd to ban a website in a university. This point cannot be overstated. We are adults, and we should be treated as such.

  17. suggestion  

    fuck censorship. here's my solution:

    don't ban juicycampus. just have cuit secretly start tracking the ips that visit it, the posts they make, and then like after a couple of months match those ips to room numbers and publish a list of people and what they've posted. privacy violation? fuck, information wants to be free!

    note: half-serious.

  18. good content  

    but do some copy editing, bwog

  19. green  

    Do they honestly think that this is the worst the internet has to offer?

    Of all the horrible shit out there, CCSC holds a panel to ban a rumor mill? Really?

  20. Jessica  

    Jessica Aldridge did not in fact say that the site is bad because it is harmful toward sororities. She did not even mention the "harm" that it has done to sororities on campus.
    The remarks made about sororities are petty and untrue, and frankly it is the least of what people should be worried about with regard to this website. What people should be worried about is that there are threats on there and that it is using columbia's name and forcing students to live in fear. It is hate speech that most certainly should not be covered by the first amendment. Regardless, to say that this was Jessica's point (about the sororities being so "harmed") is bad and negligent journalism. Please update this article.

    Also, its interesting that Jessica, who specifically asked not to be associated with her sorority in expressing her personal opinions, is defined as a member of Theta (misspelled, might I add), and yet two of the males also quoted in this article are in AEpi and their fraternity affiliation isn't revealed...

  21. Jessica A  

    Actually I just saw that post and didn't write it about myself but I very much appreciate who did!!

  22. MilkyResidenceHall

    What is this thing they call the rumors? Is like them Furies?

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