Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
April 16, 2024

This past September, the Johns Hopkins forum of the Collegiate ACB website was reinstalled after being shut down last year. The site has pages for several hundred schools, the majority of which are in the U.S., and touts a policy of almost no regulation.

The site’s homepage describes it as,“The Anonymous Communication Board for college students throughout the country to discuss anything.

The first post on the Hopkins page appeared on Sept. 15; in the two months since, there have since been 420 posts on 79 different topics. Most of them address the standard tropes of college life — sex, fraternities, alcohol and the like — written in varying shades of hostility, satire and explicitness.

“[H]ow does [H]opkins have so many hideous people? Of both genders... it can’t be possible that people are this ugly,” one thread reads. “Reading those threads on hottest girls in sororities, it’s pretty sad what passes for attractive here...”

The website prides itself on its lack of regulation, which, for many, makes for an entertaining environment — ideal for fostering gossip. Some at Hopkins, however, are uncomfortable with the way the University may be portrayed to potential students or the general public.

In an Oct. 10 post titled “Negative Publicity,” a user named Hop_Admin addressed this concern.  There is no proof that this user is actually a member of the administration, as the site is anonymous.

“I realize that much of what you’re posting here is in good fun, but I would urge you to consider the University’s reputation before you post ... Remember, this forum is available to the public, and thus to prospective students. We in admissions strive to present the best possible image to the world, and I’m afraid to say that some of you are damaging our reputation.”

The alleged administrator went on to inform students of the legal consequences that may come from posts of defamation.

“Some posts (especially those regarding specific students!) may be construed as libel, a grave violation of University policy…and a serious crime,” the poster continued.

While the University was able to regulate JHU Confessions to a certain extent, Collegiate ACB’s policies make it problematic for Hopkins as it disregards the degrading nature of the majority of posts on its website. According to the site, its goal “is to remain completely un-moderated.”

Its statements are contradictory, aiming to protect the site from the law that individual posts may break by denying ownership and responsibility, but also claiming it still regulates the writing in threads.

“CollegiateACB is not responsible for any material appearing on its website,” a disclaimer on the site reads. “Despite this ownership, CollegiateACB retains the right to remove any content.”

In efforts to avoid following of JuicyCampus, a similar gossip site that was subpoenaed by New Jersey in March of 2008 and then went offline for fiscal reasons in early February the following year, Collegiate ACB has a “report” button. This allows anyone to notify a moderator of an inappropriate post through an explanatory email. Additionally, users may also “like,” “dislike” and quote other posts.

JuicyCampus, though reinstated this past March, is largely unused and irrelevant, with its most recent post dating to January 24, 2012.

Robert Turning, Director of Student Involvement, said that though he does not look at the site, he does know that there were previously two competing sites and that the university protects itself from websites that use “JHU” in their web addresses.

“JuicyCampus got shut down on their own accord but College ACB might have used ‘JHU’ in their domain,” he said.

Senior Joanna Gawlik stated her concerns regarding the website but also shared her opinion that Hopkins may need a forum of some sort.

“There might be a need on this campus for a forum for students to communicate but Collegiate ACB is not the right way since it is not moderated and only has toxic posts that are gross, inappropriate and vulgar.”

Gawlik suggested Facebook groups as an alternative, which did not exist when she first arrived at the University, because they seem to contain less destructive commentary and are more closely regulated.

Junior Brooke Townsend recalled her frustration when she found a post about her on the previously popular site, JHU Confessions, as a freshman.

“Initially you wonder who’s out there who hates you enough to write something like that. Everyone finds it easy to hide behind a computer but I remember talking to an older girl who reminded me that no one ever looks at the site past freshmen year.”

Senior Alice Korevaar has also had posts previously written about her. “Hopefully nobody reads that much into it. People say mean things but nobody trusts it.”

Korevaar said that the site used to be very popular.

“All of the frats had accounts, and a group of guys on my freshmen floor also had an account.”

Several weeks ago, a sophomore student opened the website to an unwelcome greeting: she found herself to be the subject of several particularly lurid threads, which spread rumors of her sexual behavior and jeered at a recent visit she took to the hospital.

“Those who posted on the website have no clarity in writing and blatantly lack the ability to articulate themselves in a logical or decent manner,” she said. “I was at the hospital because I had an inflammatory reaction to a cream I was using on my skin.”

Still, there is little she can do about the content itself.

Julianne Wilson contributed reporting to this article.

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