The college gossip web site JuicyCampus shut down Feb. 4 because the site’s funding ran dry, about 18 months after first riling college students and campus officials who supported banning the site because of its salacious and hurtful comments.
In a statement titled "A Juicy Shutdown," JuicyCampus founder and CEO Matt Ivester said the foundering economy doomed the site, not criticism of its anonymous comments–often sexist, racist, and homophobic–aimed at students, student groups, and professors.
"Unfortunately, even with great traffic and strong user loyalty, a business can’t survive and grow without a steady stream of revenue to support it," Ivester said in his statement, adding that JuicyCampus had a million unique visitors every month. "In these historically difficult economic times, online ad revenue has plummeted, and venture capital funding has dissolved. JuicyCampus’ exponential growth outpaced our ability to muster the resources needed to survive this economic downturn…"
Since JuicyCampus first appeared in 2007, student groups have protested personal attacks posted throughout the site, college administrators have sought to ban the site from campus networks, and attorneys general from New Jersey and Connecticut have questioned whether the site was complying with state laws that prohibit "libelous, defamatory, and abusive postings."
Student government members at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif.–where students lobbied to have the site banned from campus networks–said they were relieved to see JuicyCampus go under.
"We were pleasantly surprised," said John Ceglia, vice president of administration for Pepperdine’s student government. "We think it’ll be better for students across the country if there weren’t sites like this. … There was no way of refuting or telling if certain things were true. It wasn’t even gossip; it was just garbage."
Ceglia, a senior, said Pepperdine’s 3,000-student campus was affected more by JuicyCampus’s rumor spreading than larger universities with a student population two or three times larger.
"Everybody knows everybody here," he said.
Tennessee State University cut off access to the JuicyCampus site in November, prompting protest from First Amendment attorneys and the site’s spokesman. (See "Gossip-site ban raises free-speech issues.")
"This is not a First Amendment issue," Michael A. Freeman, TSU’s vice president for student affairs, said days after banning JuicyCampus. "Tennessee State University’s network is a private forum for the express purposes of academic work and research. Because it is a private forum, the issue of free speech does not attach."
TSU’s legal opinion also noted that students are assessed an annual technology-access fee that "pays for student technology needs" associated with academic work. JuicyCampus does not meet that requirement, according to the university’s opinion.
Among hundreds of posts mourning the loss the JuicyCampus, several students made it clear that the site had accelerated rumors and innuendo on college campuses of all sizes.
"SO happy JC is SHUTTING DOWN!" said one poster from Auburn University.
"So glad to see you go!!!" wrote a Mississippi State University student. "There is some good in this world!!!"
A New Mexico State University student said JuicyCampus was "nothing but trouble," adding "GOOD RIDDANCE."
The comments cheering JuicyCampus’s demise were surrounded by posts that have become commonplace on the web site. A student from Hampden Sydney College in Virginia asked others to name gay students on campus. Other posts contained strings of racial epithets.
Ivester said JuicyCampus introduced a unique networking forum for college students, though he acknowledged that students also used the site to spread vicious rumors across campuses nationwide.
"JuicyCampus has raised issues that have passionate advocates on both sides, and I hope that dialogue will continue," he said. "While there are parts of JuicyCampus that none of us will miss–the mean-spirited posts and personal attacks–it has also been a place for the fun, lighthearted gossip of college life. I hope that is how it is remembered."