New Jersey Takes Action (Sort of) on Snooki's 2011 Rutgers Visit

New law bans use of state funds for such talks, but state funds weren’t used for the visit by the star of once popular reality show.

May 9, 2017
Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi

Never say state politicians don't tackle the pressing issues in higher education.

On Monday, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, signed into law a bill prompted by outrage over the $32,000 that Nicole Polizzi, known by her stage name, Snooki, a reality TV star whose 15 minutes of fame may have passed, received to speak at Rutgers University in 2011. In doing so, Christie admitted that the legislation -- had it been in effect at the time -- would not have prevented the money from going to Snooki.

She spoke at a time when many New Jersey politicians were angry about the idea that it costs money to bring big names to talk on college campuses. The university had agreed to pay Toni Morrison, the Nobel laureate, $30,000 to appear that year. (So far, no legislation has addressed the idea that the star of MTV's Jersey Shore earned more at Rutgers than did Morrison.)

Versions of legislation to limit spending on speakers -- known as "the Snooki bill" -- have been introduced regularly since 2011. This year, the bill finally passed.

But there's a problem. New Jersey can enact legislation about the use of state funds, as this bill does. But state funds weren't used to pay Snooki -- student fees were -- so legislators have admitted that the new law does not prevent the use of student fees to bring another reality star (or anyone) to campus.

Christie, in signing the bill, admitted the measure was "symbolic."

"Because speakers are not paid with state funds, this bill is essentially a symbolic statement on the rising costs of higher education and will have minimal impact on limiting the ability of the state’s public institutions of higher education to engage speakers at whatever rates they mutually agree to pay," Christie said. But he added that the new law would "bring attention to the twin problems of rising tuition costs and the resultant increases in student loan debt owed by college graduates."

So what did Snooki advise students in 2011? "Study hard, but party harder."

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