So just when I thought I’d seen almost every conceivable injustice to the speaking business, a news item appeared that I literally had to wonder if there was a surprise tag line…April Fools! But no, after reading this piece in the Calgary Herald…twice ’cause I couldn’t believe it, here’s what was written: “A U.S. University defended spendng $32,000 to bring reality tv star, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi to campus this week despite several students questioning if it was wise use of money. The speaking fee Rutgers University in New Jersey paid to the star of MTV reality show, Jersey Shore, is $12,000 more than Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winning author, Toni Morrison, will receive to speak at Rutgers graduation in May”.
So, here’s my problem. I really don’t want to insult Rutgers, “Snooki” or any other so-called “celebrity” speakers but this has made me livid. I speak to around five or six universities a year and realize it’s not my best market, although not sure why, but trust me, I am not jealous. I am also not trying to critique “Jersey Shore”, a program that I have in the past called one of the worst piece of crap shows ever made for television. I also won’t question whether Snooki’s appearance will draw a crowd, which is I am sure, the only intention. Let’s be honest, Snooki is not there to further the intellectual discourse at Rutgers. But I need to get this out of my system.
WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON???????
Please allow me some clarifying a position that I have been annoyed by for a long time and again, nothing personal but I have never understood how being a celebrity qualifies you to be a paid, professional speaker. There is an irony, of course because being “known” helps a speaker get bookings and the more known you are you achieve some celebrity. I am a bit of a celebrity, especially in my home province of Saskatchewan and I never take that for granted. Some celebrities are deserving of the “speaker” label as they use it to draw attention to a worthy cause or injustice. Some celebrities have done amazing things and that gives them their credibility. But please, what is Snooki going to talk about? How to be a slut on tv and get paid ridiculous amounts of money to be a lousy role model? Seriously. She’s not even an actor playing a bad actor…She’s A Bad Actor!!! And this is so-called reality television, which we all know isn’t “real:. Frankly, I have never personally understood the draw. But maybe I’m just being intolerant, which would make me a hypocrite. Fair enough.
What popped my cork is how I see the standard of professional speaking sinking to a new level. It is literally another slap in the face, the last being the loser flight attendent for JetBllue who freaked out after landing in New York, popped the emergency slide and escaped for not handling his job. He was immediately sought after for speaking engagements. Seriously, our society needs it head examined and Rutgers should not only give her fee to charity and cancel the show but explain to you, I and most important, their students where this money essentially comes from what they are trying to accomplish.
Post-secondary institutions around the world but especially in North America are being constantly scrutinized for raising tuition fees to ridiculous rates and they justify it by claiming pursuit of academic excellence. Well Rutgers, you have officially blew your credibility and you should be ashamed!
On a bigger-picture note as I do want to justify my rage; what is someone like Snooki and Jersey Shore portraying to our youth. Remember, I am not a prude and definitely not an old fart. While writing this, I am in Texas to speak to almost 5,000 delegates to the Texas State Student Leadership Convention. Their theme is `Discover Your Path…Leave Your Legacy` and I am pretty sure there isn`t a workshop in being a television hooker! My message to them will be my usual focus but the feel will be dignified and classy. These are the student leaders of tomorrow and I would only hope their life goals are ones that will further humanity not allow it to sink further.
Look, I am aware that pop-culture is always pushing boundaries and not really that long ago, people thought Elvis shaking his butt on stage was the end of civilization but shouldn`t institutions like Rutgers understand the message they are giving paying someone who has no talent, has a foul mouth, is a slob and a slut and a very poor orator $12,000 more than a Nobel Laureate and Pullitzer winner in Toni Morrison. All I can say is if Rutgers students want to make this right, boycott the event so nobody attends and take a stand that represents the raising, not lowering of a societal standard that is in need of serious work.