As a Rutgers alumnus, I have Targum, the Rutgers Student newspaper, delivered to my email account. Upon awakening early on April 1, I scanned the banner thinking it would be the Mugrat ( Targum spelled backwards) as it often was when I was a student. Back in those days, the Targum editors had a wonderful sense of humor on April Fool’s day, writing believable stories that were really good jokes.
Disappointed that the banner was not the Mugrat, I read on to find that the students indeed retained a sense of humor when the lead article was Snooki was paid $32K to “perform” at Rutgers. What a laugher. Then the Star Ledger arrived, a quality NJ newspaper that doesn’t display a sense of humor, and ¾ of the front page was “Snooki U”, Rutgers pays 32K for her to perform!
I am a proud Rutgers alumnus, with all three of my now grown children as RU alumni. Over the past few years, the red RU logo has been appearing on many more car windows, store fronts, with people wearing Rutgers clothing out and about. Refreshing to see one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the country claiming its right to brand itself so boldly. Then this happens.
To put this in perspective, Snooki’s appearance fee was paid from a portion of the mandatory student fee, and as such is controlled by a student governing body, the Rutgers University Programming Association (RUPA). The university has no control over how the students choose to spend their own money, and does not censure the students’ decision. The Rutgers administration should be applauded for taking this hands off approach that allows students to be the final decision makers on what experiences they want to have on campus.
While the Rutgers administration should remain blameless for this decision, the students deserve a much sterner review of their decision. Perception is reality to most people, especially to the NJ populace that has experienced tough talk and difficult actions from our governor during the current fiscal crisis. Nerves are bare to how scarce funds are allocated. Organizing a kegger at a frat or an off-campus apartment might not be the best judgment, but it doesn’t hit the headlines, and doesn’t impact the image of a University that has worked so hard over so many years to be recognized on a national scale. “Snooki U” has now replaced Rutgers University in the minds of many people who don’t understand the enormous contributions that Rutgers has made in the fields of business, science, and the arts, and to the students and alumni that have gained personal and professional success from the challenging programs.
When I was on campus (actually I was a commuter who didn’t have the money to have housing), a number of my friends and new peers ran for office in the then Commuter Council. Just as the RUPA was provided funds from the student fee, the Commuter Council received our portion of that budget. I can’t tell you today that every decision we made would have cleared the hurdle of whether the money was well spent, but we never considered any program that would harm our proud Rutgers image.
We should expect more from today’s students. They are constantly exposed to multiple media sources including the instant social media of Twitter and Facebook. You would then expect their decisions to be made with the understanding that each one is instantly viewed by anyone that cares, and then gets retweeted to many others that may never have cared. Every decision, every action needs to stand the scrutiny of their peers and the surrounding community, in this case the tax payers of NJ, and all those who call Rutgers their home.
This commentary is not meant to “censure” the freedom that all student deserve to have as members of an academic community. It is a call to action for those same students to better understand the impact of their actions. Just as putting a partially nude drunken kegger picture on Facebook right before an employer interview is not good judgment; paying Snooki $32k to perform at Rutgers is the same poor judgment.