While sitting in my apartment this afternoon, I was called by a reporter from "Inside Higher Ed." Apparently my old nemesis Juicycampus ("Juicy") is shutting down. [Juicy is/was an anonymous online posting board, which encouraged students to gossip (i.e. talk sh!t) about their fellow classmates] The reporter told me that Juicy isn't making enough add-revenue to keep running.
Cheers to the free market!
For those of you who weren't at Pepperdine last year, here's the Reader's Digest version of the whole story:
Last year I was serving as a vice president of Pepperdine's SGA when an op-ed article in our student newspaper The Graphic discussed Juicy. At first I thought that website was just a little trashy, and maybe a tiny bit entertaining. Unfortunately, after the Graphic's article ran- Juicy's Pepperdine page blew up.
In my typical crusading, Che' wannabe fashion, I decided to do something about this. I immediately wrote up a resolution to have the website filtered (i.e. "banned") from the Pepperdine internet network. The resolution was really nothing more than a protest gesture. Everyone was aware that off-campus students, including members of the now defunked Beta Theta Pi chapter (who I still strongly believe were it's most active participants), would continue to use the site, as well as internet-savvy nerds who could route around the filter. The debate over the resolution was intense and emotional; in a last-minute vote it was passed by an overwhelming majority of the senate.
Pepperdine's administration eventually decided not to implement our resolution. They instead pursued an "aggressive e-mail writing campaign" (I hope you catch the sarcasm). The Graphic's editors and a number of more "progressively" minded students immediately began to speak out against SGA's actions, which they perceived to be unwarranted.
It didn't take long for the national media to pick up on the shocking story of a university's student government actually voting to restrict student internet access. Before long our SGA President, Andy Canales, and myself were being interviewed by all kinds of news groups. Our extremely talented PR director, Jonathan Younger, tried to keep his best to manage the situation, to no avail.
After CNN.com and the AP picked up the story, Andy and I were flown to New York to appear on Fox's "Mike and Juliette Show." We were put up in hotel in Time Square, and I got to use Neil Cavuto's bathroom. After that, we almost appeared on "Geraldo Rivera Live"- but our segment was cut last minute. Then CBS sent a news crew out to Pepperdine and we ended up Katie Couric's Saturday news show. Finally, I was interviewed by the New York Times.
While the media jaunt was fun, all it really accomplished was to further advertise the existence of Juicy. Surprisingly, a number of other colleges' and universities' student governments followed our lead and voted to ban Juicy from their networks.
Then a couple of state attorney generals even sued Juicy to no avail.
By that time, I didn't care anymore. I was graduating and moving home, and I felt that I had done my part.
So how do I feel about it all looking back?
Honestly, I think that what our SGA did, while it may have eventually backfired, was a principled action. I think that Pepperdine, as a private, christian institution has the right, if it so chooses, to limit its internet access. I don't think that blocking Juicy from the Pepperdine network would have been fundamentally any different from keeping 21-year-olds from drinking on campus. In fact, I think that trying to prevent its students from writing malicious, hurtful, racist, sexist, and homophobic things on a website has a firmer moral grounding than trying to keep them from drinking.
On the other hand, I don't think that state schools like UCLA, could have or should have done the same thing. I also don't believe that a state government, or the national government should be involved in the regulation of sites like Juicy.
I believe that when parents choose to send their children to a christian university, or when a student chooses independently to attend one, they should be aware that they are entering an institution which is guided by christian principles. Private christian schools have the right, and the imperative to create a positive, nurturing environment framed by christian beliefs and teachings. Among which are the beliefs that it is wrong to lie, to gossip and to insult other people.
That said, what I really learned from this experience is that it's sometimes best to leave evil, corrupting things like Juicy alone. Our crusade against Juicy only brought it more attention and in turn, more revenue. In this case it was the invisible hand of the free market which killed one odious website, and I for one am glad.