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A Cautionary Tale from a College Disaster: Psst…Pass the Gossip!

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Gossip and rumors are main staples on college campuses across the nation, and the website Juicy Campus (which was recently shut down), shows just how far people are willing to go to spread gossip. At some point in everyone’s life, gossip comes up – good or bad. Gossip, in moderation, can be just another thing, but in a culture that obsesses about pop culture and dishing dirt (think of websites like Perez Hilton), the fixation of dishing dirt about someone else isn’t going away any time soon.

Although many of us love to gather on Monday nights to watch Gossip Girl and watch the scandals of the Upper East Side unfold, no one likes it when their own personal life is exposed in the cafeteria over wilted lettuce or when private information rolls off the lips of classmates before the professor starts the class. While gossip may seem like something that comes and goes, it can leave its dirty scars behind all too often.

Maybe because it’s an all-women’s college and women often use each other to bring others down, or maybe it is the size of the university, but the Hollins rumor mill never seems to cease on campus. It constantly peeks its nasty little head around the corner for students that least expect it. Whether it hurts friendships, ruins reputations, or isolates students from campus events — gossip can cause tremendous damage.

Remember when my mom and I met with the President to discuss the bullying that happened my first year? Well, upon arrival at Hollins for my sophomore year, the student body buzzed (never to my face, though) with the rumor that Hollins implemented a bullying policy because of me… being a bully. No one knew that my mom and I brought forth the issues that happened with me because of a bully on campus, demanding the President to come up with a bullying policy. No one knew what happened to me as a first year. However, everyone seemed to accuse me of things that I did not do.

Time after time, I have met girls on campus who tell me how “mean” I sounded from other students’ tales of meetings with me. One of my friends was even warned by another student to not be my friend. Whenever I hear these stories, the people who spoke out against me are always peers I have never met myself. They are usually students who I have never had contact with. How can anyone pass judgment before they have met someone else, especially in the context of putting someone else down? I don’t know how anyone could go around talking so negatively about someone else, when they have never personally had an experience with that person.

I have seen gossip make people unable to maintain decent friendships on campus, as well. For example, this girl named Emma (name changed) was known around campus to have a “private jet,” an extensive collection of designer apparel in her closet, and people even talked of her having major connections to the sports industry. Girls on campus thought they would take advantage of Emma by befriending her, only to go into her closet and steal her designer clothes. Not only would they go and steal her stuff, but they would talk about taking from her because she deserved it as a “rich kid.”

Truth is, Emma does not have a private jet (although her dad is a pilot), she doesn’t have immediate connections to the sports industry, and the only designer clothes she owns come from outlet malls. Now, whenever students meet Emma for the first time, they can’t get past her “rich kid” reputation. How can Emma expect to make friends on campus when everyone seems to focus on what they heard about her, instead of actually getting to know her?

Talk spreads like wildfire. I see it all the time. Just walk into the cafeteria on Monday morning and other people know where you were over the weekend. How? My first reaction to this, when it happened to me, was that those who were asking found out from Facebook. Since then I have had to make my Facebook entirely private, along with many other students on campus, in order to have any privacy. Though the gossip has not ceased.

Worst of all, it doesn’t help when the administration plays into the whole “Guess what I heard about you” game. On more than one occasion I have heard of students going to speak with the Dean of Students or head of Residence Life, only to come out with gossip from other students told to them by the authority figure who uses the gossip against them. If the administration lends an ear to gossip, of course the student body is going to keep it up.

I have heard many rumors about myself here at Hollins, and 99% of them never happened, resemble nothing from the truth, and have no merit. At first, I am not going to lie, the rumors really bothered me. A lot of them were hurtful, and a lot of them have stuck (despite not being true), but there comes a point when you have to displace yourself from that, even when it seems like everyone is talking about you. There have been so many times when I have seen my fellow peers break down about something that was said about them, and even though you want to stand up and say “No – that’s not true! That didn’t happen!” you can’t, and it doesn’t seem right or fair.

If sisterhood exists at Hollins, then why does gossip own the souls of most students? Whenever someone hears something that is obviously not true, no one speaks up – they just go along with it, and that is unacceptable. I am sick of hearing gossip about people and myself, especially at a school that talks about the loyalty and respectfulness of its students. If Hollins continues to let rumors take hold of the student body, I believe there will be no way to return to a clean, respectful state in the student body. No one will be able to avoid it, and that just seems entirely too extreme.

I know Hollins isn’t alone in this gossip battle – tell me about your school and how big of an impact gossip has on the student body? What is the worst rumor you have ever heard about yourself or someone else? Do you think gossip, in moderation, is healthy or just vicious in any degree? Time to share your story!

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