U. under fire for 'Snooki,' Rutgersfest
It has been a hard year for the Rutgers University Programming Association (RUPA), which first had to deal with media backlash for bringing "Jersey Shore" star Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi to campus and saw its seminal event, Rutgersfest, canceled after four shootings took place after the concert.
"Study hard, but party harder," said Polizzi at her two packed shows on March 31 at the Livingston Student Center. She was accompanied by comedian sidekick Adam Ace who asked her questions about her life in a similar format to Bravo's "Inside the Actor's Studio."
According to the Star Ledger, Polizzi was reportedly paid $32,000 for her appearances, — $2,000 more than what was paid for this year's commencement speaker Toni Morrison, which some thought was inappropriate at an institution of higher learning.
But the University issued a statement, explaining Polizzi was brought here in accordance with the demands of 2,000 students. The money used to pay for Snooki's performance came from a small portion of each student's mandatory fees, while Morrison's $30,000 came from the University's contract with PepsiCo.
Some of the students who went to see Snooki's performance said they were excited to have such a star come to the University and make her first college appearance in the state.
"I think Snooki is really popular and prevalent in the media," said Jill Weiss, a School of Arts and Sciences junior. "It's great that Rutgers brought her. I don't watch the show but my friends were so excited about coming and so am I. It's a very exciting event."
Polizzi talked about the behind the scenes of her reality show during the comedy show.
She told her audience that she buys hairspray and bronzer once a week, with the former product doubling as a way to shoo cameras away.
"If I'm ever annoyed at the camera, I'll spray hairspray for five years," she said. "The only real way to get away from the camera is showering, so we take really long showers."
Polizzi also said her biggest inspiration is her skin tone.
"When you're tan, you feel better," she said.
While a portion of the public found fault with bringing Polizzi to campus, the University stressed it was not promoted as an academic program, and as with any comedy show the content's value is subjective and students choose to attend according to their interests.
"Comedy in particular can garner very divided opinions," said Greg Kassee, vice president of RUPA's Comedy and Movies committee. "But ‘Jersey Shore' received some of the highest ratings of any cable television show ever. The show undeniably has an audience here at Rutgers."
RUPA also aimed to provide students with wanted entertainment at its annual end-of-the-year concert and carnival Rutgersfest. But the funds spent on the performers — $10,000 for YelaWolf, $35,000 for 3OH!3 and $50,000 for Pitbull — were not the controversy, but rather the violence after the show was.
University President Richard L. McCormick sent an email to all students on the New Brunswick campus four days after the concert on April 19, which ended a University tradition 30 years in the making.
McCormick explained the large crowds consisting of many non-University individuals that descended upon New Brunswick's fifth and sixth wards after the concert created too much disorder that even an additional police presence could not contain.
"Many streets were congested with people and there were multiple reports of disruptive conduct," he said. "Near the College Avenue campus there were many rowdy student house parties, incidents of public intoxication, littering and vandalism and several altercations among students with other individuals."
The night and early morning following the concert included four shootings, none of which involved University students, said Lt. J.T. Miller of the New Brunswick Police Department (NBPD).
The first shooting occurred around midnight near Easton Avenue and Albany Street in front of Marita's Cantina, where an 18-year-old was shot once in each leg, he said.
Another dispute ended in the shooting of two brothers near 32 College Ave. and Hamilton Street, where one, a 19-year-old, was shot in the buttocks and the other was grazed in the thigh, Miller said.
A 17-year-old, who was shot in the hip on a side street off Easton Avenue, showed up at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, but the NBPD is still investigating the location, he said.
"We cannot risk further danger or the possible loss of life," McCormick said. "The problems that occur following Rutgersfest have grown beyond our capacity to manage them, and the only responsible course of action is to cancel the event."
Ana Castillo, president of RUPA, was disappointed the altercations after Rutgersfest caused the concert to be cancelled.
"I expected it, and I don't think the University had any other choice," said Castillo, a School of Arts and Sciences senior. "We're all kind of a little shocked because the decisions came so quickly after it happened."
Although Rutgersfest is a tradition, Castillo said keeping the event is not worth it if someone gets hurt.
"Rutgersfest is a culmination of our work for the year and a chance for new members in the [committees] to get hands-on training," she said. "[But] it comes down to making sure everyone is safe. Having outsiders come to New Brunswick is not worth the risk. It was a decision that was in the best interest of all parties."
While it's unclear if this is the last students will see of Rutgersfest at the University, RUPA will continue to bring other concerts and events to campus.
"I'm not sure if the decision is permanent. If it'll happen again five years down the road or never again," she said. "RUPA will try its best to bring concerts and activities to people. We're supportive of the administration, and we hope people don't blame us too much for it."