Sad But True: Snooki Paid More to Speak at Rutgers Than Toni Morrison

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Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi

REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Rutgers: The place where reality-show fame gets you more money than a Pulitzer Prize.

Jersey Shore’s favorite self-described guidette was featured in a Q&A session Thursday on Rutgers’ campus. Snooki – known legally as Nicole Polizzi, but no one actually calls her that – spoke to a total of 1,000 lucky students at two sessions. Her fee, for an easy few hours of work: $32,000. We’ll give that to you once more. For two hours of banter about smushing and fist pumping, she earned $32,000.

(More on TIME.com: See the Jersey Shore cast take over Miami)

Here’s some context on that price tag. That’s $2,000 more than Rutgers is paying a deserving celebrity: Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison. The writer of Beloved and Song of Solomon will grace Rutgers’ commencement ceremony in May, speaking to a football stadium of 52,000 people, about 10,000 of whom will be taking their first steps into the real world post-college. And Morrison is only making $30,000 off the gig.

Toni Morrison

A reality show starlet known for her hair “pouf” and love of pickles earns more for an appearance than does a famed auteur who’s banked nine novels, a Pulitzer Prize, and countless awards for her writing – not to mention a Nobel Prize citing her “visionary force and poetic import.” For that disparity, let’s hope Snooki had some deeply inspirational words to offer. “Study hard, but party harder,” she told the audience.

(More on TIME.com: See photos of Toni Morrison’s life and career)

Granted, Rutgers doesn’t normally pay their commencement speakers, making a special exception to bring Morrison to the ceremony. And the payment channels for each speaker are different. Morrison’s fee will be paid from a university account. But Snooki was invited as an event set up by the Rutgers University Programming Association, using funds from a mandatory activities fee embedded in the students’ tuition. Essentially, all students were forced to pick up Snooki’s tab, whether they attended the show or not.

Governor Chris Christie has made no secret of his disdain for the show himself. Because Rutgers is a public university, should Snooki’s appearance be state-sanctioned? But Christie, and all the Rutgers students who are griping about this battle of the bucks, should remember that Snooki is also an author, if that’s any consolation.

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