The following reflects the majority opinion of the editorial board.
Last Thursday, Vincent “Vinny” Guadagnino, former TV star on the reality show “Jersey Shore,” came to campus to serve as the keynote speaker for the university’s mental health forum. In front of a crowd of about 500 in Hall Auditorium, Vinny answered questions and spoke of his experience with severe anxiety throughout his life. His speaking portion of the evening lasted less than 30 minutes.
Vinny’s performance was, compared to the grandiose of his name, underwhelming; he spoke for a short amount of time, he made jokes about doing shots with the audience and he showed up with little bone fide psychological expertise. It’s easy to imagine that those in attendance expected more out of this celebrity speaker, and more out of the $20,000 that he charged the university to appear last week.
These facts are concerning, and when it comes to a topic as important as mental health, the need to produce an effective and legitimate dialogue is an urgent one. However, when it comes to this event in particular, to write it off as failure would not do justice to the larger context of the issue of mental health and the proximate results it showed.
The genesis for seeking a person such as Vinny to come and speak to Miami students is a reasonable one. Events about serious issues such as mental health generally do not draw enthusiastic crowds of young people; picking a celebrity such as Vinny, whose show students in college now will no doubt remember from its heyday from 2010 to 2012, was a creative way to try to get the average Miami student to get excited about such a topic.
It’s no secret that a prevailing part of Miami’s culture centers around drinking and partying, activities that Vinny partook in heavily on his show. His story of having to look past that element of his life and take care of his mental health is one that should resonate with such a school.
The evidence of the effectiveness of his billing for the event shows in the attendance. With a packed house, all those students, many of whom might have not showed up without his name on the ticket, were able to not only hear Vinny, but also his opener, Dr. John Ward, assistant director for clinical and men’s services, speak about the topic. Without Vinny, and the efforts of ASG, IFC, Panhellic, MAP and RHA to get students to the auditorium, this event may very well have ended with many empty seats.
Of course, it would be best if college students didn’t need a reality TV star to draw them to such an event. But, we don’t live in a perfect world, and sometimes going outside the box on speaking personalities can have a positive effect. Though Vinny somewhat disappointed in his speaking role, the potential for an engaging event was there.
In short, Vinny’s presence was a well-intentioned move, with positive results in terms of getting students to sit down and attend a mental health forum. Vinny, as a professional partier for many years, has a story that any students could relate to.
It’s execution, though was lackluster, and with such a short amount of speaking time for such a high profile (and expensive) guest, it is no wonder that many in Hall Auditorium were left feeling like they deserved more. With Student Counseling Services being an entity that can never get enough funding, spending so much money on him is regrettable. But, that is in hindsight, and the effort to get people interested in the topic was effective.
The event may not have panned out in the way its organizers and attendees hoped, but for the size of the event it created and the relatable message that Vinny offered, it’s reasonable to look at the glass as half full.