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   from the issue of October 14, 2004

  Reality TV Comes to Campus

Show will boost UNL in national spotlight

Chancellor Harvey Perlman sent this e-mail to faculty and staff on Oct. 7.

Rock star Tommy Lee films a scene for an upcoming NBC reality show Oct. 8 in front of Chase Hall...
 Rock star Tommy Lee films a scene for an upcoming NBC reality show Oct. 8 in front of Chase Hall on the East Campus Mall. Lee and the film crews arrived at UNL Oct. 7 and plan to wrap up filming on campus and around Lincoln in the next few weeks. Photo by Brett Hampton.

Dear Colleagues:

By now, the few of you who may have still thought otherwise are probably convinced I've lost my mind. A reality television show on our campus? Tommy Lee? I'm sorry I was unable to brief you in advance before the recent news articles, but we were bound by a confidentiality agreement with NBC. It is true we have allowed them to film on campus. We have done as much due diligence as we could including weeks of meetings with producers; we're satisfied that the show will not portray the university in a bad light. The essence of the show is that a rock star with a questionable past seeks redemption through higher education. We believe the effort will be serious. We think that is a good message and one with which the university can associate.

Beyond the message, our campus will be featured in a prime time show on a major broadcast network. While few of us may put reality television shows on our top 10 programs to watch, they are popular with students whom we are trying to recruit to the university. There are of course some risks here as well and we recognize them. On the other hand, the potential for this exposure seemed worth the risk. We think the depiction of our campus environment, the faculty and students who are featured will be positives for us.

We have turned down a number of reality opportunities. I would be more concerned if this were being produced for cable. But we believe NBC is a responsible network and the show will be responsibly produced.

The producers are also making efforts to engage some of our students as interns and to give them experience in making a major television production. And the buzz and energy of having this activity on campus are also positives.

We understand the background of Tommy Lee. We do not approve of some of his past conduct. On the other hand, education is one of the ways a person can redeem himself for past mistakes. He will be living off campus. He has agreed to abide by the Student Code of Conduct while he is in Lincoln. He is open to participating in some activities, off camera, that will benefit the university and its students.

Again, in the end, while recognizing the risks, we decided the potential for our recruiting efforts was worth it. I hope that turns out to be the right judgment. I am tempted to say something like "If it doesn't work you can vote me off the island," but I've already used that line. All I can say is join me in keeping your fingers crossed.




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