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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Katarina Rothhorn
Katarina Rothhorn
Features Writer

The first message I ever sent from my Northern Michigan University sanctioned email was to the editor-in-chief of the North Wind asking if there was any way I could join the staff. Classes hadn't even...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

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Gossip site causes stir with students, administrators

A controversial Web site that allows users to anonymously criticize other students has raised concern among Northern administrators.

Juicycampus.com is a site that allows college students to anonymously make posts about topics ranging from “favorite drunk food” to “biggest bitch on campus.”

Students can then vote on whether they agree with the content, and reply to the post. The free nature of this site which allows people to post whatever they choose, including some offensive material, is causing frustration.

“(The posts) run the gamut from innocuous to insulting and disgusting. It doesn’t seem right that students can write what they want about people and remain anonymous. It seems cowardly,” said Christine Greer, dean of students at Northern.

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The anonymity of the site allows for many disrespectful things to be said without repercussions. Some posts single out an individual with subject lines that announce the person’s name, others ask people to name a person, proposing questions like “(Who are the) biggest sluts on campus?” Also, specific groups of people, based on race, gender or sexual orientation, are singled out.

There are several posts on that Web site that attack Hobie Webster, a senior political science and philosophy major and ASNMU president. On the site, anonymous students judge his ability as president and make personal comments about his character. One post even makes vague threats toward Webster: “Hobie, you better watch your self! I may be a random student that you don’t know, or someone you come into contact with several times a day, but I promise you this … You will pay for the shit you pull, but only time will tell how and when you will do so.”

Assistant Director of NMU Public Safety, Jeff Mincheff said he had no reason to believe the threat was an imminent one. Public Safety officials filed a report regardless.

Webster said he wasn’t bothered by the post about him, and even defended the right of people to post things anonymously.

“It doesn’t bother me what they say . People can say anything they’d like about me. If they want to say I’m doing a poor job, then obviously I’ll disagree, but they can say those things if they want,” Webster said.

Webster added that as ASNMU president, he understands that people will attack him for being in the public sphere. He does not take the comments personally, but understands that they can be hurtful.

“No one, regardless of who it is being spoken about that way, should take it personally . That doesn’t mean it’s okay, because it’s not,” Webster said.

Comparatively, Webster understands the nature of the site and said he has conflicting feelings about it. He is dismayed, however, at the hurtful things that are being said and emphasizes that what is said on this site does not represent the university.

“I truly believe that (the online commentary) is less than one-tenth . of the people on this campus; out of the 9,121 students, there may be just a handful who feel that way. So people should know that they don’t speak for the majority; they don’t speak for the university,” Webster said.

Greer said that NMU administrators have begun to monitor the site.

“Some schools have blocked the site, and we are looking into that possibility,” Greer said.

The creators of the Web site make no attempt to hide that it contains potentially offensive material. When a person initially enters the Web site, the person must agree that he or she is 18 years old and agree to the terms and conditions that are laid out in full on the site.

The juicycampus.com terms and conditions state, “By using the site, you agree that juicycampus shall have no obligation to monitor content on the site or to delete content from the site, even if juicycampus is notified that such content violates this agreement.”

The terms and conditions do state, however, that material which violates state or federal law will be removed.

This puts the decision in the hands of campus administrators.

“Students who are being libeled on the site should put their complaints about the site in writing to me,” Greer said. “Anyone who finds the site ridiculous should voice their opinions. I want to hear from students who would like to see the site blocked.”

However, according to attorney advocate Adam Goldstein from the Student Press Law Center, the university is limited in what it can do. As a public university, Northern cannot entirely block the Web site because doing so is a breach of the First Amendment.

Goldstein also said that most of what is being posted on the site cannot be cited as libel because of its unbelievable nature.

“There’s a lot of random stuff put on there; I’m not convinced that someone goes to juicycampus and believes what (is) said. If no one believes it, it’s not libel,” Goldstein said.

Regardless, some say what is being said should not be permitted. Helina Haile is a freshman public relations major and a member of OUTlook, NMU’s organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning students, and believes that the administration should take some action. She added that those who justify the Web site under freedom of speech are compromising the ideals of the First Amendment.

“There’s people in this world who don’t have that freedom and we . abuse it,” Haile said. “Why do you want to stand up for freedom of speech just so you can bash someone on a Web site, (yet) you can’t even put your name on it?”

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