February 5, 2009. It will go down in history as the day that JuicyCampus.com shut down operations, sending college students nationwide into an era void of campus gossip. Or so we thought.
Riding on the coattails of JuicyCampus’s success, College ACB, which stands for Anonymous Confession Board, has become the new hub for all juicy college gossip. Started by two Wesleyan University students, CollegeACB.com’s Northwestern page features posts about everything from “Biggest Guidos on Campus” to “NU’s Mole Epidemic”. It’s not exactly the typical school discussion board, and according to the site’s owner, Peter Frank, that is the point.
“From sexuality to politics, from keg parties to concerns about course selections, the ACB is a website that helps build community and engenders the open exchange of information,” says the site’s press release. “It is the campus center, the dorm room, the cafeteria, and the lecture hall, all combined into a single, easily accessible forum where everyone is invited to converse openly, without fear of reprisal or reprimand.”
But with anonymous posters singling out their peers by name, some students are wondering how much is too much.
“I just kind of remember when it first came around. People would write things about other people and there was a lot of inter-Greek house shit talking basically,” says Communications senior Alison Lynch. “It [is] a weird thing to have your name on this Web site and not know who wrote it.”
One of College ACB’s favorite subjects is sororities and fraternities. Message boards like “Sorority and frat rankings…based on how nice the people are” target specific houses and the feedback isn’t always good.
“I’ve heard a lot of people in the sorority talk about it every now and then, but it’s mostly in a joking way,” says Weinberg sophomore Nataly Perkowski, a Gamma Phi member. “I think deep down people may take it seriously.”
The relationship between Greek houses and College ACB is strained, to say the least. On the heels of Gone Greek Night, speculation whirled on the site about the hottest pledges (“Hottest freshman boy pledges”) and the frats that are on probation (“Social probation cause of GGN?”). Furthermore, with rush season now behind us, some sororities have gone so far as to prohibit members from using or commenting on the Web site. According to Alison Lynch, the site’s material may have swayed the rush process.
“Especially for freshman going through recruitment, I think if you pay attention to what people write on there you could totally get a different impression of a house than maybe is true.”
However, Communications freshman Effie Yang says the site’s discussion boards did not play a role in her recruitment decision.
“I knew from the start that it was not a legit source of and I kind of just made fun of it,” says Yang. “If you think about, I could write something about my sorority but I just made it up. Some people definitely take it seriously even though they probably shouldn’t.”
Medill sophomore Zoe Jennings agrees with Yang, saying that “people are either afraid to reference it seriously or don’t take it seriously.” Still, she adds that there is at least some effort to save face on the Web site.
“If someone says something positive it’s usually by an organization trying to promote itself,” says Jennings.
With so much smack talking, the line between what JuicyCampus was and what College ACB now is, seems blurred. However, Peter Frank has taken steps to ensure that College ACB does not share JuicyCampus’s fate. For instance, a “user moderation button” allows for some level of regulation of site material, a feature that JuicyCampus did not have.
The question still remains about how much of a presence College ACB has on campus. With a community as relatively small as Northwestern, it seems that most people know someone who is mentioned on the site. Freshman Varun Mokhashi experienced this firsthand as the subject of the “Hot Indian Guys” discussion board.
“Two friends told me that I was mentioned,” says Mokhashi. “The site was actually down when they told me so I couldn’t check right away, but eventually it came back up and I checked and it was on there. I was not expecting that but it was cool.”
Mokhashi may be one of few who approves of his newly found fame, but with a following as large as the Web site has, there is no doubt that College ACB will be on campuses nationwide for years to come.