In 2011, former Jersey Shore star Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi collected $32,000 for a speaking engagement at Rutgers University. Today, Governor Chris Christie—our favorite unrequited lover of Bruce Springsteen—signed legislation inspired by Polizzi’s fee, which caps the amount New Jersey state schools can pay speakers at $10,000.
ABC News reports that Republican Assemblyman John DiMaio penned the bill after learning that Polizzi had been paid such a high sum for her appearance. Incidentally, the money came from student fees and amounted to $2000 more than Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison earned when she spoke at Rutgers’s commencement.
Regardless, Christie noted that this bill functions more as a symbol than anything else. As in the case of Polizzi, schools generally draw from student fees to pay their invited speakers. Christie does hope, however, that the legislation will illuminate rising tuition costs and the ever-heavier burden of student loan debt.
Said Christie in a statement, “Our public institutions of higher education need to be better stewards of both State resources and non-State sources of revenue to ensure the costs of a college education do not become unmanageable.”
Nonetheless, actor and musician Steven Van Zandt will collect $35,000 when he delivers an address at Rutgers’s commencement this Sunday. The University explains that they rely on their contract with Coca-Cola to pay for commencement speakers. Each year, Coke pays Rutgers over $2.5 million in sponsorship, commission, and campus support funds.
High profile commencement speakers are meant as a reward for the graduating class. Schools also argue that snagging big names impresses donors—a group of individuals who can have a significant impact on a school’s budget—and can even entice prospective students. Indeed, when Bill Nye “The Science Guy” spoke in 2015, commencement attendance increased by 50 percent from the previous year. Yet this reasoning has not tempered criticism regarding how schools spend their money—particularly those schools with thinner wallets.
And as for Snooki and Christie, well—they’re not exactly embroiled in a feud (damn), but they’re also not bosom buds. In her book Strong Is the New Sexy, Polizzi wrote that Christie appeared “full of hate” when she introduced herself to him in 2013. (They encountered one another on the boardwalk at Seaside Heights.) Snooki has since referred to Christie as a “bully” and mocked his weight.
We’ll forego the body-shaming, but otherwise, Snooki, we’ll drag Chris Christie with you any day. Goodness knows there’s plenty to critique.