Bowdoin students may be expressing their opinions on the internet more than ever, but they are not doing it on Curia (bcuria.com), Bowdoin's life and culture blog. On the website, which is described on its "About" page as "a place to gather and discuss timely issues," there have been no new posts since November 30, 2011.
Five posts have been created since the current editors—who wrote all five—Jimena Escudero '13 and Ursula Moreno-VanderLaan '13 took over this year.
This is a far cry from past years, in which the blog served as a bustling online home for campus discussion.
In November 2008, the Orient reported that Curia, as "Bowdoin's hotspot for blogging [and] culture," boasted a "'steady group' of contributors" that regularly met with editors to plan content.
The article noted one post about the controversy over a Playboy Mansion-themed party at Ladd House that received almost 50 comments.
Curia's problems are typical of campus organizations entering the second and third generation after their inception. Curia's founder, William Donahoe, graduated in 2008, and many of Curia's most prolific writers, including Evan Boucher, Sean Campos and Isa Abney, all graduated last May, leaving a vacancy in the leadership of the blog.
Boucher made a post on the Orbit Digest searching for interested parties to take over last spring. Through this, wrote Escudero in an email to the Orient, "Ursula and I became aware that last years' editors were looking for someone as he was graduating and we offered to take it over."
Whereas Curia had a staff of 10 writers from various class years when the Orient reported on it in 2008, there are now no staff writers besides Escudero and Moreno-VanderLaan.
"You definitely need a core, and there's me and Jimena, but two people writing random opinion articles isn't enough to keep something like Curia alive," said Moreno-VanderLaan. "You need different perspectives."
Ten of the students who have written for Curia in the past still attend the school (including, in full disclosure, the author of this article), and Moreno-VanderLaan said that the editors have a list of interested students from the Activities Fair at the beginning of the year, but "nothing's really come of that."
As a result, the editors said they rely on soliciting submissions from members of the community to keep the site active, which has proved a difficult task.
Moreno-VanderLaan says she has talked to multiple people who were interested in writing, but that "getting people to submit, not just think about submitting" is the hardest step.
Curia has always relied heavily on its editors and core group of staff writers.
Former editor Campos explained that Boucher "was running the show last year," and accordingly, 10 of the 19 posts on Curia in the spring semester were written by him.
Furthermore, Campos said that Curia "was, even in its early days, kind of Will Donahoe's project. He wrote like all the articles at the beginning, and to my knowledge he's still paying for the website out of his pocket."
The current editors identified the growth of other Bowdoin-centric blogs and websites as one possible cause of Curia's difficulty in finding regular writers.
"I think that there are so many options for students to write and be published," said Jimena. "I've heard from several contributors who feel that there are so many things to write to, that they're almost unmotivated to write for yet another campus publication."
Moreno-VanderLaan similarly pointed to the closed nature of Curia as turning off some potential writers.
Access to Curia is limited to Bowdoin IP addresses "in the interest of protecting...individual writers from having to restrain themselves by considering a worldwide audience," according to its "About" page.
However, Moreno-VanderLaan explained that this is "not an incentive for people who want to write to write," which may cause potential contributors with journalistic aspirations to seek other outlets.
Despite Curia's current dormant period, Moreno-VanderLaan said she believes it still has the potential to fill a niche in the online campus conversation that sites like The 'Cac and Her Campus Bowdoin do not.
Unlike these sites, Curia can offer "a serious discussion of the deeper things that maybe can be difficult to talk about at Bowdoin because we're so politically correct."
For example, Moreno-VanderLaan first decided to write for Curia because she was having so many conversations about the fact that she was on financial aid.
Although these issues are discussed in other places online, Moreno-VanderLaan thinks that Curia's nature as a secure online forum that allows for anonymous commenting creates the conditions for "a more genuine dialogue."
As to the future of Curia, Moreno-VanderLaan stated that she and Escudero continue to seek submissions and hope to "put out something at least once a week," even if they are the only ones writing.
Escudero has been monitoring how many unique visitors Curia receives, and stated that people continue to check the site despite its lack of activity.
Despite the complex and fast-changing landscape of online media, Escudero and Moren-VanderLaan maintain faith in Curia's role on campus.
"There's still something to be said for writing a thorough, well-organized opinion about something that you really care about," said Moreno-VanderLaan.