Universities should invite guests who educate and inform students

Rutgers University has taken heat for its recent decision to invite “Jersey Shore” star Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi to campus. The controversy arose after the compensation figures became public. According to the Huffington Post, Snooki was paid $32,000 for her visit, while Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison will get $30,000 for a May visit.

Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi (ChicagoPhotoStop/Creative Commons)

The situation should cause universities to consider what their students want and need, and it should lead universities to think hard about what their intentions should be when inviting guests to campus.

Money talks

Sure, the Rutgers University Programming Association had a responsibility to entertain the students on campus, but Snooki’s appearance failed to involve a majority of the student body. The event was funded with students’ mandatory activity fees, so the entire student body should be able to attend.

Only 2,000 students were able to attend the Jersey party girl’s event. The math works out to essentially $16 a ticket to catch Snooki and her comedian sidekick.

Toni Morrison will speak at the university’s commencement ceremony. The venue will seat 52,000 people, significantly more than Snooki’s appearance. More importantly, the university has funded Morrison’s appearance, which costs the students nothing.

With the numbers in mind, was it worth the money Rutgers spent on Snooki to entertain a small portion of the student body? I don’t think so.

The value of education

The most important issue to recognize is the content marketed to students. A university is supposed to be a marketplace of ideas. I find it hard to believe that Snooki’s advice, “study hard, party harder,” is crucial to the betterment of young minds.

The price of either guest cannot be changed. It is a sad fact that a reality star is paid more for appearances than a Nobel Prize winner. However, I don’t believe that excuses Rutgers for indulging in the temptation.

As capable and intelligent students at universities, we need to hold our institutions accountable. These few years should be an opportunity to take advantage of the scholars and insightful thinkers available to us. I would hope students would question St. Thomas if it made a similar decision.

St. Thomas’s decision to invite musician John Legend to campus is an excellent example of mixing entertainment with education. Legend will speak about his involvement in charities as well as perform several songs. The event will be informative and entertaining.

There are plenty of opportunities to experience entertainment’s guilty pleasures. A university’s funds should go toward the betterment of its students, and I would guess most people agree Snooki does not help fulfill that goal.

Gina Dolski can be reached at grdolski@stthomas.edu.

4 Replies to “Universities should invite guests who educate and inform students”

  1. Hasn’t Morrison herself said that her fees were cut in half because she has “nostalgia” for Rutgers after teaching there? I don’t think poor Snooki should be scrutinized as a result of Morrison’s decision.

    I also don’t think universities should be criticized. How many hundreds of events does a university bring in each year that are purely educational? Surely, a few guests who come solely for the sake of entertainment aren’t disrupting that school’s educational mission. In fact, entertaining students is a big part of university systems. Just look at UST and groups like STAR and USG. They spend a lot of time and effort organizing events that have nothing to do with learning.

    Bringing in popular guests such as Snooki or Jordin Sparks (who cost St. Thomas students $50,000) is inevitably going to be more expensive. They appeal to a wider audience, so there’s more demand. Hence the higher price tags. But that’s an issue with our society’s values, not universities’ priorities.

  2. Gina, since when does money that a university spends cost students nothing as opposed to student activity fees? As far as I’m aware, my tuition dollars are more in number than my student activity fee.

  3. Grant, I agree that Snooki should not be scrutinized for being paid more than Morrison. What she should be scrutinized for is promoting stupidity on a national scale. Just because our culture puts the trivial and idiotic on a pedestal doesn’t mean academia should follow suit.

  4. Maybe Toni Morrison should fire her manager and pick up Snooki’s. If he/she can get 32k for Snooki, Morrison should really think about changing managers.

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