EDITORIAL: ‘Snooki’ bill advised after 2011 situation

N.J. bill has right idea on U. limiting how much it spends on speakers


Rutgers University has a prestigious history of hosting inspirational and revolutionary speakers to share their wisdom with the students. Former President Barack Obama, Bill Nye and Toni Morrison are only some of the esteemed names on the list. But in 2011, Rutgers had something of a blip, and decided to spend $32,000 to have MTV’s former “Jersey Shore” star, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi.

Snooki’s appearance at the Livingston Student Center consisted of two sold-out shows for 500 students each. While speaking to Rutgers students, she covered a plethora of topics and activities including a “Situation” contest where she compared the abs of five male students, a tutorial on how to achieve her signature hairstyle known as the “pouf” and information on where she gets fried pickles from.

It is no wonder that a newly passed New Jersey bill is capping the funds to pay someone for speaking at a university at $10,000. This bill includes an institution’s speaker for a commencement address.

A majority of the lawmakers in New Jersey were upset that this bill would even be brought up to the legislature. Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) was amongst these voices as he stated, “In a state with a $35 billion budget, with all the challenges and opportunities we have, to be worried about micro-managing what universities decide to pay their commencement speakers?” And in a way, Christie is correct.

When Snooki received her whopping $32,000 six years prior, the money for her payment had come from student activity fees — not from state funds. And because the allocated money did not involve the government, the bill technically is interfering in an affair that does not involve the government. However, this is not to say that the University should not be more careful in where they spend their money.

Student fees that go to the Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) are then allocated to student organizations such as the Rutgers University Programming Association (RUPA), which subsequently hired Polizzi. The student fees that were used to pay for Snooki’s appearance were ones that students paid for mandatorily, and this is why students need to be able to have a say in where their fees go. They especially should be able to choose how much of their fees are allocated to speakers.

A lot of news outlets are covering this “Snooki Bill” mostly as a way to poke fun at Rutgers for spending so much money on someone with such little to offer University students — especially when Rutgers was only going to pay Obama (the sitting president at the time) $35,000. Even though he declined to take any money at all, the fact that we were only going to pay the president $3,000 more than a reality television star is shocking.

With student fees (and college in general) becoming more expensive, every dollar counts. And even though Snooki’s appearance happened over six years ago, its prevalence today shows that there is still work to be done in terms of whom Rutgers brings to speak here. As odd as it sounds, it is not entirely about the money. When Rutgers brings people such as Obama, Nye and Morrison, people do not complain about the money because it is evident that the speakers brought in with this money are offering valuable information that can be impactful to students’ lives. But when Rutgers chooses to bring in someone like Snooki, who made inappropriate comments and whose performance resembled something more of a YouTube tutorial than a life lesson or speech, then it is understandable that students would be upset. Even with sold-out shows, 1,000 students in a school of about 50,000 students do not mandate the popular majority of the school. And while bringing in someone like Snooki in 2011 was and could be comical at best, it is definitely not something people, especially potential students looking to attend the University, would want to spend a whopping $32,000 on. It is hard to imagine that people would even want to spend the $10,000 maximum the “Snooki Bill” suggests. 

The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 149th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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