Commuter Corner: ‘Jersey Shore’ speech causes stir

Rutgers University is in the news once again. Last week the New Brunswick campus of the state school hosted Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, a member of the Jersey Shore cast who is better known for her antics rather than her academic achievements. Snooki was paid $32,000 for her appearance, $2,000 more than Toni Morrison, a Nobel-prize winning novelist, who will speak at Rutgers’ May Commencement.

“It’s absolutely not right, not to mention ludicrous,” said Victoria Poidamani, a junior psychology major at Rutgers.

Poidamani and Rutgers sophomore genetics major Siana Ziemba expressed similar feelings.

“Truthfully, I was kind of disappointed,” said Ziemba. “That money could have gone to dorms in need of air conditioning, student research projects in need of funding or community services in New Brunswick.”

This opinion is shared by some students at Rider as well. SarahBeth Barnosky, a Rider elementary education and Spanish major, expressed the same feeling.

“It was a waste of money,” she said.

It makes sense since Rutgers gave more money to someone whose advice was “Study hard, but party harder” than to a Nobel Prize winner.

Although the mass appeal of booking a celebrity is understandable, Rutgers is a university, a place of higher education. It is a public one, meaning that it is partially supported by the taxpayers of New Jersey. The $32,000 paycheck Snooki received for her appearance came from the student activities fee; this does not reflect well on the university. With more than 37,000 students, each paid less than a dollar for this event.

Colleges and universities book various speakers and performers throughout the year. At Rider, we have hosted everyone from U.S. Senator Bob Menendez to Jason Derülo in just this academic year. A university needs to balance the intellectual and academic needs of its students for them to do well, which Rutgers attempted to do. The real issue here is the media attention this decision received, creating a public relations problem that Rutgers has had to deal with this past week. This event created backlash from New Jersey taxpayers, parents, etc. With this kind of reaction, the school should look at its hired speakers more carefully in the future.

For a university to book someone who is popular is fine; that is not the issue, or Rider would be in the news every time the SEC hosted a concert or comedian. The controversy is that a professional partier was paid more than a Nobel Prize winner, even though Morrison commands less money than Snooki for appearances.

The key to understanding this situation is simple. Two different parties at Rutgers booked the two speakers. Rutgers’ Programming Association, their version of the SEC, booked Snooki while university officials booked Morrison. One was booked for entertainment and the other for a serious lecture. It still does not seem right that Rutgers paid more for play than work.

– Jess Scanlon

Junior journalism major

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