When 2,000 UNH students flooded Lundholm Gymnasium in October, they knew only that they wanted to see the cast members of MTV's "Real World" and "Road Rules." The shows feature groups of college-age non-actors who live together in various parts of the world under the glare of 24-hour cameras. The unscripted weekly shows follow the groups as they form close and sometimes hostile relationships and struggle with the issues of daily life—all in view of millions of young voyeurs.
The students gave the casts a standing ovation as they appeared on stage and then listened quietly as they grasped MTV's hidden agenda: The casts were on campus to talk about AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), substance abuse and the joys of public service. Surprisingly, no one made a move for the door.
The first speaker, Kefla from "Road Rules/Australia," began with some shock treatment. "Do you know that when you have sex with a partner, you're also having sex with all their partners, and their partners' partners?" he said. "You have a better chance of getting AIDS than getting a black student at your school."
"I'm just like you, I've made bad choices," admitted David, a rogue from "Real World." "Seventy-eight percent of you have had unprotected sex, and one in four of you will contract an STD. There's 80,000 cases of AIDS and 11 million cases of STDs in the United States. It takes only one bad decision to affect the rest of your life."
"AIDS and HIV have become the defining issues of our generation," added Christie, another "Road Rules" cast member. "What I want you to do is change your mind, your heart, the way you think about AIDS."
"Seventeen thousand college students have died in car accidents due to alcohol, and everyone here spends about $400 a year on drinking, " said a member of the Seattle crew of "Real World." "Two to three percent of the people in this room will die of an alcohol-related disease—as many as will go on to get a Ph.D."
Another Seattle cast member, Lindsay, described her best friend, a funny, wonderful guy and an alcoholic who had recently died of alcohol poisoning. "I have to live with the fact that I didn't help him. He killed himself. Watch out for yourselves, watch out for your friends." Rebecca, also from the Seattle crew, told of the great feeling she experienced from volunteering to work with needy young kids. "For the first time in my life, it made me feel like I had a good impact on people."
During the question and answer period, the students brought the forum back to less weighty issues. "Are you still with Stephanie?" "How do you and Piggy get along?"
But Chris Clifford '97, an assistant residence hall director at Williamson Hall, says students told her afterward that the event was "pretty cool," that the casts weren't preaching at them, just talking from their own life experiences. Junior Sara Davidson, a communications disorder major, agrees that some of the personal stories "hit home." "These are growing issues on our campus, not necessarily pressing issues in my own life, but definitely things that students should think more about. They really caught people's attention with some of the statistics. I think their so-called celebrity got people to listen to them," she says.
Assistant Director of the MUB, Jen Woodside, who choreographed the cast members' stay on campus, also thinks the show made an impact. "It's amazing to get 2,000 people to come to an educational program. We tell (the students) all this stuff in orientation and in their halls, but it's great to have them hear it from their peers."Return to UNH Magazine Campus Currents