With the MTV reality show “College Life” set to premiere tonight, University of Wisconsin officials are concerned about the balance of aspects of campus life the show will depict.
“My real hope is MTV depicts the experience for Wisconsin students in a holistic, well-rounded way,” Dean of Students Lori Berquam said. “My fear is the reality that they show is just about alcohol. I think the experience at Madison is more than just alcohol, and that emphasis devalues the work that our students put in here.”
“College Life” — a reality show premiering tonight at 9:30 on MTV that will depict the lives of eight UW freshmen and sophomores as filmed by the students — was originally proposed by a UW alumnus. MTV agents spent the fall scouting campus for students to appear on the show.
According to Berquam, the alumnus hoped the show would be a way to capitalize on positive things about the university and showcase bright, engaged students.
“It’s sort of transitioned into something that was a little bit more,” she said.
According to UW spokesperson John Lucas, the university originally started out with the idea of partnering with the show but decided in the fall to pull back after realizing the show did not align with the original intentions behind it.
“It was steering more and more toward stereotypical shows,” Lucas said. “They had a much greater eye toward the drinking and relationship side of campus life than the balanced side.”
Berquam said the decision was made after the first trailer for the show was released, and the university became concerned about putting its name on a show they believed did not accurately depict the life of a student.
“That’s where we decided to step back … because we were concerned about how this could impact UW-Madison for our alums, our current students, our future students, our students’ parents and potential donors to our university,” Berquam said.
However, the MTV site describes the show as something beyond reality TV, as the show is an “intimate portrayal of the highs and lows of the experience, a no-holds barred, honest portrayal of life on campus.”
The site also notes the show is not endorsed by UW.
UW freshman Steph Menefee said she received several callbacks to be on the show and participated in a week of filming but in the end decided the show was not for her.
While Menefee said she was encouraged by MTV to film all aspects of her life, including studying, grade results and hanging out with friends, she said there were some events she just did not feel comfortable sharing.
“My whole thing was things that I should have been filming that would have made good TV or what people would want to see, I wasn’t really comfortable filming, especially if it would jeopardize or embarrass any of my friends,” Menefee said.