College Anonymous Confession Board (ACB), the gossip website, was the main topic of conversation last night at the first of what is to be an ongoing series of open student discussions facilitated by Bowdoin Student Government (BSG).

"There has been a discussion on campus that there is no place where students can talk about certain issues and so, this year, the Student Affairs Committee decided to hold a discussion series," said BSG Vice President of Student Affairs Chanwoong Baek '12. "We thought that Bowdoin as a community talking about anonymous conversation would gain interest among students."

The discussion, which took place in Lancaster Lounge and was attended by just under 40 students, touched on topics including how the website represents the College to prospective students and the perceived barriers at Bowdoin that prevent students from fully expressing themselves.

One student described observing a culture of "extreme P.C.-ness," that he said he felt sometimes prevented students from engaging in conversations that could help create an open, understanding environment.

BSG President John Connolly '11 agreed that "there should be an open forum online," but also noted that "anonymity can cause some unfortunate consequences."

The general consensus of those at the meeting was that ACB does not serve a positive function on campus and students highlighted anonymity and the difficulty of getting negative posts removed as the most problematic aspects of the site.

"In general, the websites strike me as cowardly—another venue for spiteful individuals to hide behind the Internet and take potshots at their peers with absolutely no accountability," said Coleman proctor Daniel Ertis '13. "It's all fun and games until your own name pops up, or the name of someone you care about."

The question of exactly how to combat the damaging effects of the site sparked much debate at the meeting. Some students suggested "redirecting the energy" of the site by flooding it with positive messages. Others were in favor of plans like a "reporting party"—a group of students who would effectively erase Bowdoin's ACB page by collectively reporting every thread—that would render the site useless.

In response to a question about blocking student access to the website or trying to get Bowdoin's page removed, Connolly noted that the latter option would be difficult if not impossible.

"I've personally looked into that," he said. "The site has not been receptive to that. It's a junior at Wesleyan that runs it and the site has not been cooperative. Looking up articles from other college newspapers [shows that] there have been attempts made and student governments from other schools have made requests and it has not happened."

Connolly also stated that he did not believe blocking the site would be in the best interest of the College, asking "Do we really want to go down the path of blocking websites? I mean what would we block next?"

Baek echoed this sentiment.

"We think it's also important that Bowdoin is an academic institution and we should not limit or restrict website access and it's important for us to talk about it instead of just hiding it," said Baek. "I personally believe, as a Bowdoin student, that the Bowdoin community is mature enough to talk about it."

Director of Residential Life Mary Pat McMahon said that, after hearing "from people who are directly the presence of vitriolic comments in our community," she hoped that these sorts of discussions could help the situation. McMahon suggested that open dialogue could "create an atmosphere on campus where people understand that engaging in a respectful dialogue and having ownership of your own actions and opinions is really important."

-Erin McAuliffe contributed to this report.