Spirit of Margaret Brent sent along this article from the UVa Law Weekly which demonstrates that, yes, the harassment and libel of female law students by shitstains on AutoAdmit has had demonstrable effects on the subjects’ careers:
Recently, several female UVA Law students have been targets of harassment by members of an online message board. This harassment, perpetrated anonymously by posters to AutoAdmit.com, carries potentially damaging repercussions for the women: at least one has already been contacted about it by her prospective employer, and others fear that it will injure their professional reputations. . . .
What’s more, nearly all of these threads are accessible through any Google search that includes the students’ names. In a recent exposé on the issues raised by similar content on AutoAdmit, the Washington Post cited a report that found about half of all U.S. hiring officials conduct internet searches of job applicants. According to the same study, approximately one-third of such searches generated results used to deny a job.
Indeed, one of the female UVA Law students on the “Top 14” site has already been contacted by her prospective law firm, where her pictures and the AutoAdmit comments about her had circulated. Although it has not changed her job situation, she feels that the site has already impaired her professional reputation. “People at firms read this stuff, and the word spreads. When I come into my law firm, this is not how I want to be seen.”
Emphasis added. Kinda puts the lie to all those people (*cough*AlthouseandReynoldandDr.Helen*cough*) who maintained that this was just harmless fun and no rational employer would EVER pay the slightest bit of attention to this!
This is exactly why damage to reputation is actionable; the kind of slander and harassment these women endured is going to follow them professionally for quite some time. Their undeserved reputations will precede them in the work world, and even where they don’t lose a job because of it, they’re going to have to work that much harder to prove themselves worthy of trust. They’re going to have to work that much harder to overcome the kind of speculation about whether there’s any truth to the AutoAdmit garbage that’s the inevitable result of something like this. They’re always going to be known as “that girl.”
The article is notable for a few other things, as well. First, the UVa students place a great deal of blame on the members of the UVa Law community who sent their photos into the “T14” hot-girls contest site and posted identifying information — full names and contact info — to AutoAdmit.
The worst part, as these women tell the Law Weekly, is that they wouldn’t have had to endure this ordeal if a few of their UVA Law classmates had duly respected their privacy. . . .
In mid-February, several of the site’s members organized a contest that was aimed at naming the “hottest” female student at a “Top 14” law school. To that end, the contest’s organizers solicited nominations from these schools; several UVA Law students responded by submitting dozens of photos of their classmates. In all, pictures of eight UVA Law women appeared on the “Top 14” site. None of them consented to having their pictures posted. . . .
Despite the fact that the “Top 14” site purported to protect the identities of the women pictured in its contest, AutoAdmit members soon began to reference many of them by name. In all, four UVA Law women had their full names posted on the message board. In addition to criticizing their appearances on the discussion threads, AutoAdmit members continually referred to some of these UVA Law students as “whores” and “sluts,” among other terms too obscene to print.
In other representative threads, an anonymous AutoAdmit poster wrote about performing sex acts on them, while another told them to “[g]et raped.” . . .
The Law Weekly spoke to several of the eight women from UVA Law whose pictures appeared on the site, and we agreed to protect their anonymity in order to prevent further harassment and threats against them. Although each expressed similar condemnation for the administrators of AutoAdmit and for the “Top 14” contest’s organizers, they saved particular condemnation for members of the UVA Law community who participated by either submitting pictures or by posting to the AutoAdmit board.
More than one stated that such actions shattered for them the sense of trust that UVA’s Honor system is meant to foster. One commented:
“When I first got here, everyone told me how this place was so safe that you can leave your laptop around without worrying about it being stolen. You would like to think that also means that people respect each other enough to not invade a fellow student’s privacy.”
Another told the Law Weekly that she was surprised that UVA students participated. “I would have thought that people had more respect for other members of the UVA community.” In addition, she resented having to walk through school “knowing that there were people here who had submitted pictures and who were posting about [her]” on the internet. She added that the UVA Law students who participated should be “embarrassed, ashamed, and guilty about what they’ve put [the women] through.” When they submitted pictures, they “should have known that the tone” of AutoAdmit’s message board would engender the kind of harassment it did.
While it may be tempting to dismiss this kind of reaction as naive, not every law school is cutthroat. I do remember hearing stories about Harvard and Columbia and how competitive they were, to the extent that students would cut pages out of books in the library. While that may well be apocryphal, I can honestly say that, outside the top 5 students or so, Michigan was pretty free of backbiting. Mostly, I think, because while we did get regular grades rather than the Yale system of pass/fail, we weren’t ranked until a year after graduation, and you have to ask for it (I never did until last year, when I had to. And I graduated 11 years ago). So there was no way to know exactly how you stood in relation to your classmates, and that cut way down on competition. People were very free with their course outlines, for example.
While I don’t know much about the atmosphere at UVa, it’s quite clear from the article that the reaction of the law school community could have been better:
Another laid the blame in part on UVA’s administration. “There is a reason there were so many UVA posts, and it’s not because we have attractive girls,” she stated. “The Stanford community gathered together and made sure no one submitted people. The deans at our school should have taken a more active role.”
Strictly speaking, there’s not a whole lot of direct action a school can take in a situation like this, but the success that Stanford had at preventing exactly what happened at UVa and at NYU and at Yale shows the value of an active, engaged administration. And when the administration isn’t interested, or concerns itself with the letter of the law, then students are going to be abused by other students. The fish rots from the head, after all.
Fortunately, though, at least some members of the UVa Law community didn’t feel constrained by notions of what was actionable or what the school could get involved in.
However, more than one of the women whose pictures were posted to the “Top 14” site have taken matters into their own hands. Some of the women have been able to determine who was responsible for submitting pictures of them without their consent, and have confronted these students.
This was possible because a UVA Law student (who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of harassment by AutoAdmit members) deceived the “Top 14” contest’s organizers and obtained access to the email account through which they were running the site. This student subsequently downloaded all of the account’s messages, and in some cases those emails found their way to the women whose pictures were contained therein. The Law Weekly has viewed the emails in question, several of which do indeed contain identifying information, including names.
How sweet it is.