University administrators trying to block site on some campuses

TORONTO, WATERLOO (CUP) — As if Facebook and Twitter weren’t enough, there’s now another reason for students to worry about their drunken escapades and misguided hijinx ending up on the Internet.

A new gossip site promises to expose what goes on behind closed doors on university and college campuses across Canada.

Room 110, a website modelled after the television series Gossip Girl, officially launched last week, describing itself as “Canada’s first ‘reality blog.’” Offering a voyeuristic look into the private lives of people on campuses across Canada, the site features photos, opinions, rumours and speculation about students from 19 schools, including the University of British Columbia, Dalhousie University and York University.

All the content is anonymously submitted by the site’s users and posted after being approved by student representatives at each campus.

“There is not one person who runs this website — it’s basically run by the students of Canada,” said Derek Paul, a media relations representative for the website. “The site will keep running as long as the students keep coming and submitting.

“Students always gossip about things, and this site just gives them a safe and fun platform to do it on. Students know this is just a fun environment, and not set out to hurt anyone’s feelings.”

Paul said that the site receives between 100 to 500 submissions every day from students across the country.

There are plans to expand the site to include more Canadian campuses, and eventually American ones.

Not everyone agrees. Since Room 110’s launch, several schools have made attempts to block the site’s URL from being accessed on campus computers, according to a Canadian News Wire report.

Paul said that he has also received letters of complaint from some schools asking that certain content be removed from the site.

But Wilfrid Laurier University’s students’ union public relations representative Pam Blomfield said the content wasn’t the issue for her.

“All schools have students who like to engage in activities that aren’t as responsible as they could be,” she said, “So as far as school’s reputations, I don’t feel like it overshadows too much.”

Blomfield emphasized that students need to take responsibility for their own photos when they post them on social media sites.

“Whatever you post on Facebook … it can be taken off the Internet and put anywhere. So students have to keep that in mind when they post things.”

But, even innocent photos have been targeted on the site, which has some critics concerned. Users have posted casual shots of students and accompanied them with captions attacking their appearances, lifestyles and social activities.

“The way it’s going right now, it looks like it’s bordering on cyber-bullying,” Janelle Emanuel, a co-ordinator for a Laurier group that promotes responsible drinking, said. “This semester at school has been so focused and plagued by all these stories about bullying and cyber-bullying.”

Blomfield agreed that the written attacks on the website were the most worrisome aspect.

“In an age where it’s so easy to be engaged in cyber-bullying, it’s the last thing parents and students would be wanting to see.”

Glen Weppler, Ryerson’s director of student community life agrees.

“It’s certainly concerning if people are being described in ways that people would be offended by,” said Weppler, who only learned of Room 110 after being contacted for this story.

However, Weppler was also skeptical that the website would attract a large following.

“Blogs and social networks — be it Facebook or MySpace — have been around for years now, and students are already sharing a lot of information in a lot of different ways,” said Weppler. “I think most students would not give [Room 110] a lot of credibility.”

And he has his doubts that the site will take off.

“Students are busy. They have important things to do. They want to do well in school. I think they will spend their time on those activities and not looking at gossip.”

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