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Does Jersey Shore Belong on a College Campus?

Photo: Ian Spanier/MTV

Kathryn Knight Randolph

November 01, 2011

Does Jersey Shore Belong on a College Campus?
Jersey Shore has been a pop culture phenomenon since its debut on MTV in December 2009. The show has exposed the world to the Jersey Shore definition of “guido/guidette” and converted more than just Italian Americans to the lifestyle. It has taught us catch phrases like “GTL” – gym, tan, laundry. And now, the show has transpired from the television set to the collegiate classroom. Last Friday, the University of Chicago, holding the #5 spot on U.S. News and World Report’s Best Colleges Rankings, hosted the Jersey Shore Studies, a one-day conference that covered the show’s cultural influence on today’s society. It is believed that several hundred students attended the conference, according to The New York Times. Naturally, the conference sparked a lot of debate surrounding whether or not the Jersey Shore cast and concept has any place in the modern day classroom, especially in one as prestigious as the University of Chicago. A former student at the University of Chicago, Kate Dries, shared her feelings with WBEZ 91.5, a Chicago public media service.

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She stated that she "couldn't help but wonder if the Jersey Shore conference is an indicator that things are changing over at my alma mater. The University has always prided itself on its uniqueness, its nerdiness, its "uncommon" qualities. But a reality show on MTV is probably anything but nerdy. Could the Jersey Shore conference mean that the UofC was becoming less, well, UofC-ish?” As reported by the Huffington Post, The Jersey Shores Studies conference covered gendered relationships, “Guido” cultural signifiers, performance and celebrity and morality and ethics. And while the conference was initially construed as a big joke, the scholarly speakers made it very apparent that the issues discussed at the conference were a serious matter.

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Alison Hearn, who was the keynote speaker and is an associate professor of Information and Media Studies at University of Western Ontario, told Time Out Chicago in an interview, “I think [the show] has real implications, especially given the state of the economy at the moment. The fact that people can’t count on long-term jobs anymore [makes it seem] like going on a reality show is just as good a path as any other.” The Jersey Shores Studies conference was endowed by the Uncommon Fund, a $40,000 (of which only $2,580 was spent on the Jersey Shore Studies conference) per year fund that the University provides to the school’s student government. A board on the student government reviews Uncommon Fund proposals and selects projects that will benefit from the fund. It’s not the first time that they have selected to sponsor a topic that has raised a few eyebrows. For instance, last year, part of the fund was used to bring Max Brooks, author of The Zombie Survival Guide, to campus to talk about zombie apocalypse preparedness. The fund has also sponsored intramural Quidditch, gigantic water balloon fights and an insect buffet tasting.

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What do you think? Should pop culture subjects have a place in the classroom or academia, in general? Why or why not?

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