The controversy: In a case of low culture triumphing over high, Rutgers University in New Jersey recently paid Snooki (née Nicole Polizzi), one of the most visible stars of MTV's smash hit Jersey Shore, $32,000 to appear at two question-and-answer sessions. By contrast, it is doling out a mere $30,000 to author Toni Morrison — the legendary 80-year-old winner of both the Pulitzer and Nobel prizes for literature — to speak in front of 52,000 students at the school's commencement in May. Rankling students further, Snooki was booked by a student-led group, the Rutgers University Programming Association, which pools its funds from a mandatory tuition fee. (Morrison is being paid through a university account, and is the first commencement speaker the school has ever compensated.) While students must wait to absorb Morrison's life lessons in May, Polizzi offered some characteristically sage advice at one of her recents Q & As: "Study hard, but party harder."
The reaction:
"Such a waste of my money," said student Daniel Oliveto, as quoted by the Newark Star-Ledger. "If I want to listen to someone talk, they should have something intelligent to say." Well, that may be too much to ask from the girl with the "fist-pumping, pouf-wearing, hard-partying lifestyle," says Aliyah Shahid at the New York Daily News. But "life is good when you're the Princess of Poughkeepsie." Indeed, "this all adds up," says Max Read at Gawker, "when you consider that Toni Morrison has never been on MTV (besides True Life: I'm a Nobel Prize Winner)." You've gotta love capitalism, which "if nothing else... forces us to be brutally honest about what we value. Which is Snooki."