There is a new Juicy Campus in town. College Anonymous Confession Board (ACB) is an independent website that serves as an open forum for students, and is organized into different pages for various colleges and universities, Bowdoin included. Almost all of the posts are anonymous and end up containing nothing more than rumors and defamation—gossip. Though established in 2009, it has only recently attracted a following at Bowdoin. According to Alexa, a website that reports on Internet traffic, ACB's pageviews have more than doubled in the past three months.
ACB does a feeble job in its attempts to paint itself as something other than a pit for students to sling mud at one another. The inaugural ACB press release stated: "The site is devoted to promoting actual discussion, not provoking salacious posts or personal attacks." One visit to the site is enough to see what students really use it for.
ACB operates a moderation system set up in favor of accountability-free posting. Anyone can visit the site and post a comment of any nature with a few simple clicks—no identification required. Those who seek to remove posts, however, face significant hurdles and must provide information posters do not. And these hurdles may be jumped in vain, given that a malicious author can re-post their comment—and a hundred others—in the time it takes to remove the one.
We are not going to shake a finger at students for being insensitive. We fully support students writing anything online, as long as they are accountable for their statements. But by anonymously posting cruel gossip, individuals remain insulated from the social mores that usually check such behavior. The students responsible for hateful speech are cowards for writing slurs that, if spoken in public, would leave them facing severe social ostracism.
We propose a new forum for Bowdoin-related questions, answers and comments be incorporated into the soon-to-be redesigned Student Gateway. Students deserve the opportunity to have meaningful discussions online. We need a forum that is informal but prevents personal attacks. Posts would not have to do with his hotness and her promiscuity but could instead address the many elements of life at Bowdoin—from alcohol consumption to printing woes. These topics would represent the student body far better than the cruel and immature posts found on ACB. Because of the past productive discussions we have seen on Curia, a campus-restricted blog of Bowdoin life and culture, we are confident that students are open to and capable of having frank and constructive conversations about our campus. Curia cannot fully fill this void, though, since its format precludes every user from participating on the same level: Students can openly respond to posts but cannot generate new topics.
This new forum should be private, available only to current students. We are reluctant to speak candidly—and controversially—when what is written publicly will be archived forever and easily accessed by employers and graduate schools.
The discussion board could bring students into contact with others outside of their everyday circles to discuss campus issues.
The editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which comprises Claire Collery, Nick Daniels, Piper Grosswendt, Zoe Lescaze and Seth Walder.