Lessons from Snooki?

Posted via The Student Affairs Collaborative by “Cindy.”

I read the discussion around Rutgers University’s decision to bring Snooki on campus with great interest based on my programming roles with our Student Government Association’s lecture series.  For those who may not have heard about the discussion, it compares the latest two high profile speakers brought to campus and how much they are being paid for their speaking engagements.  Toni Morrison is being paid to speak at Commencement for $30K and Snooki is being paid $32K for a speaking engagement sponsored by the Rutgers College Programming Association.  I’m not really interested in the comparison conversation, as I’m sure that the processes that brought both women to their campus are pretty disconnected. (and yes, that’s a whole other post!)  However, there are some other great conversations connected to this and it’s easy to imagine that this could easily happen to any one of us who works with students who are in a position to make programming decisions.

What typically happens when your students are interested in something that gives you “pause?”  My first step is always to ask questions. “So, what kind of image will this portray of your organization and its’ priorities?” or “Look back at your goals you set for the year, does this fit?”  I’m really lucky that in 9 times out of 10 there is at least one of my students in the room that might stop and think and at very least have a critical dialogue with their peers about the potential concerns.

But then, what happens if the idea is still alive?

If you use my six year old’s kindergarten class’ rule of thumb, you only act drastically under conditions of “D and D” (damage and destruction). I apply this to the “advisor veto” as well.  When I see students going down a road that will lead to damage and destruction, I would definitely step in and tell them that whatever choice they are about to make just isn’t going to happen.  This would be in cases of risk management, policy violation, or other forms of impending doom.  The level of “intrusive” advising definitely increases depending on the funding source.

I want to send a serious kudos to the Rutgers administration for not canceling this event. I’m confident that emails are flying and lots of hindsight and reflection happening and I’ll bet those discussions are challenging. By letting this event happen, they affirmed the students’ ability to make decisions and I’m confident they are now supporting those students through the consequences of their choices as their story goes more public.

There are other ways we can reflect on our business practices in working with entertainers, speakers and agencies after this debate:

  • When you put students in decision making roles, do you really mean it? Do they have full reign over choices or are there limits and how does funding source play in? Have you ever had the conversation with the “powers that be” about what would happen if you were in Rutgers’ situation?
  • Is the issue here really about paying Snooki too much or paying Toni Morrison not enough? What is your definition of a “fair price” for a lecture or comedy show when you get into that realm of compensation?
  • If you were the Vice President for Student Affairs and the critique was flowing about programming decisions made by your student programming board, how would you respond? How do you respond to your President and how do you respond to your students?

I’m grateful for the chance to discuss this with my students and also grateful to the Rutgers administrators for standing behind their students and the good work they have done to date.  I hope we can use this experience to highlight the scope of roles our leaders of programming groups on campus take. I’m also hoping that the RUPA student leaders will get some credit for the large responsibility they shoulder for the campus and won’t lose momentum or commitment after all of this controversy.

I would have never thought I’d learn anything from Snooki, but from her presence at Rutgers I hope we learn things that will help our student leaders learn even more.

…but I’m still not watching “Jersey Shore.”

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3 thoughts on “Lessons from Snooki?

  1. I can imagine the outrage that Snooki has sparked by speaking to Rutgers students on Thursday, and getting paid $32,000 for it. And let me preface this statement by saying I don’t agree or disagree with having a member of the Jersey Shore tribe speak to a campus. However I think there are a lot of different aspects of this argument that everyone must consider.

    This isn’t the first time that a movie/tv star has had the opportunity to speak to a college campus. Kandi Burrus, a member of the “Real Housewives of Atlanta” has spoken to students at Fort Valley State University, Linkin Park guitarist, Brad Delson, spoke at UCLA’s graduation, and Verne Troyer (aka “Mini Me” from the Austin Powers movies) also spoke to Central Michigan University. It is pretty obvious here that the issue isn’t that a famous tv personality is showing up at college campuses, and getting paid for it. The issue, it seems to me, is HOW MUCH Snooki is getting paid paired with her assumed lack of intelligence (as compared to Toni Morrison, presumably).

    I don’t care if I get a lot of backlash for what I am going to say, buy here goes. I would bet a million bucks that if you surveyed any college campus in America there would be more people who know who Snooki is than who know who Toni Morrison is. I’m just throwing that out there. If student programmers are searching for a celebrity who is both relevant and appealing to the masses, they have done their job (and done it well) by scheduling Snooki. Yes, she is a train wreck, and yes she asks questions that my 6 year-old cousin knows the answers to, however, she does whatever Jersey turnpike voodoo magic that she does VERY well.

    And if lack intelligence is the problem here, then who are these outraged people in college communities to say what intelligence is? It can be proven that scholars have yet to agree upon a single definition of what “intelligence” is. Is it book smarts, ability to cough up facts about history, ability to relate to the masses, ability to make justified and agreeable decisions, fluency in 10 languages, or perhaps, the ability to succeed?

    If you ask me, Snooki knows something we don’t. Perhaps the real reason why everyone is so outraged is that they are jealous. Snooki is getting paid $32,000 (a year’s salary in a lot of cases), for talking about getting drunk and partying. I think people are outraged because they all think “Hey, I can do that, WHY NOT ME?”. The cold hard facts are that Snooki was chosen for this… Snooki. Yes, it might seem unfair, yes it might seem profoundly wrong, but the bottom line is… Snooki is doing something right, and maybe we should all examine the “real” reasons about why this issue outrages us all.

  2. Very interesting debate! I agree with Dustin, the decision by Rutgers to empower their student governing body is commendable. As I see it, the decision to pay Snooki an absurd amount of money for an appearance fails to violate any policies or ethics. Also, I agree that most college students are more familiar with Snooki as opposed to Toni Morrison (I will admit that I had to Google Toni Morrison after reading this article while I knew that Snooki was a member of the Jersey Shore debacle). All in all, great topic of discussion!

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