RUPA acted democratically
The Oxford dictionary defines democracy as "a system of government by the whole population or all eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives." The basis for democracy lies in participation of the general public, and the opinion held by the most voters will eventually be implemented. It is possible for this system to fail the intelligentsia of a population or the needs of a country. One need only look at the election of Hamas in Palestine, which drew criticism from Israel and the United States, or the 2000 and 2004 elections of George W. Bush as president of the United States, which drew criticisms internationally and among the liberals in the country. The resounding result of subjectively unfortunate elections is "tough cookies." At the end of the election, the result was final and left those who did not participate scratching their heads.
The preceding anecdote is important because it highlights the spectacle that has been made of the University hosting Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi for two shows as part of the Rutgers University Programming Association's (RUPA) planned entertainment for students. The hoopla was raised when it was revealed that RUPA spent $32,000 for her two shows here. The hoopla became a national spectacle when the amount paid for Snooki was compared to the amount paid for Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison to speak at the University's 2011 commencement ceremony — Morrison was paid only $30,000. At first glance, I was outraged, too. How could my school, a respected state university with renowned graduates, research and diversity, waste so much money on a vapid television personality with no college education that would undoubtedly (in my mind) only encourage partying and other licentious behavior in students? Then I did some research and asked some questions, and boy, was I surprised.
As it ends up, Toni Morrison is a former University professor, and due to her allegiance or respect for the University, agreed to cut her normal speaking price in half. Morrison normally asks for $60,000 or higher for appearances and speeches. While she did not particularly explain why, we know that she did significantly reduce her normal price. Morrison told the New York Post she neither knows who Snooki is or cares that Snooki made more for making an appearance. Morrison lived up to her reputation as a class act and is confident in her role as a prize-worthy celebrity.
Snooki, on the other hand, was a separate issue. In my mind, and in the minds of countless other students, it seemed unjustifiable to have Snooki as a speaker and for her appearance cost to be an absurdly high $32,000. But I eventually learned more about the situation and promptly was dismissed by the facts. Polizzi's price of $32,000 covered the cost of not one, but two shows, which would effectively make the cost of each appearance around $16,000. This does not include the booking fee for an event. Also, what the complaining public seems to largely ignore is that the $32,000 also covers the booking and payment of opening comedian Adam Ace, who the Association for the Promotion of Campus Activities named College Comedian of the Year. In reality, the price for a Snooki appearance was well under $15,000 per show and is rightfully only about a quarter of the regular cost of having Toni Morrison appear on campus.
Even if one is to disregard the barrage of facts surrounding Snooki's appearance, the choice to bring her to the University for an appearance is based on student feedback, with nearly 2,000 students expressing their wish that RUPA have such an event. RUPA would not purposely fund an event they thought would be detrimental to the University community, nor would they fund one that would not have a large number of students in attendance. Say what you want about what Snooki has to offer to any global conversation, but she managed to sell out two shows at the University to capacity, in an event that was almost exclusively billed as "entertainment." Finally, state funds, tuition money or donor contributions to the university did not fund the event. RUPA only uses funds designated for student programming. Not many were complaining when the same funds were used to bring award-winning writer and director Spike Lee, comedian Bo Burnham or environmental journalist Vanessa Farquharson to campus.
Thus are the effects of democracy. RUPA followed a simple model that responds to campus trends and student input for events to hold. A large support of Snooki in the student body led to her show here, and RUPA would be ignoring a large number of student requests by not making an effort to comply with what the student body wants. If other students don't like it, they are free to email or talk to a RUPA representative and suggest other celebrities to bring to speak. If not, the popular voice will continue to be the major influence at the University, as it should.
Cody Gorman is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in political science with a minor in general history.