Home     About Alumni   .   History of Pioneer Week    .   Contact us 


Playboy: Chico State slipping

Girly mag party list does university no favors

By Josh Indar

Chico News & Review Oct 3, 2002

Photo by Mark Thalman

When we were kings Attendees of 1987's Pioneer Days show why Chico State used to be the top party school in the country, as they show their spirit atop an overturned TV news car.


Hot damn: When asked why so many of Playboy's top party schools were in places known for hot weather, a spokesperson said, "Anywhere where you have girls in skimpy outfits, girls in bikinis, the potential for it to be a party school is just that much greater."


Better luck next time, Chico State.

After a 15-year reign as Playboy magazine's undisputed top party college, CSUC has slipped in the rankings to party school No. 2, beaten out by the hotter and apparently drunker students at Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz. Students, party enthusiasts and school administrators alike bemoaned the ranking, but for completely different reasons.

On campus, many students said they were not happy to learn that Chico was included on the list. While younger students reportedly were more embracing of the ranking, many juniors and seniors worried the party label would hurt their chances of landing a job once they graduate.

In one class's discussion of the ranking the day it was announced, students and some longtime Chico residents questioned the validity of the ranking, saying the school was nowhere near as wild as it used to be. One student said she knew "a bunch" of people who had made it their mission in life to get the school placed on top of this year's list, calling and writing to Playboy several times over the past few months.

School spokesman Joe Wills called the ranking "damaging [and] distressing" and said that students he had heard from agreed.

"I overheard one student say, 'This means my diploma means--blank,'" Wills said, later confirming that the student had used the brown word.

Wills added that the school's reputation as a party college, regardless of whether it is deserved, is likely to hurt students entering the workforce more than it will hurt the university itself.

"The university will survive, [but] for some students who are going out in the world and looking for jobs, they'll have to put up with some comments," Wills said. "This university over the last 15 years has flourished; we've won a lot of awards. But there will be people who will prejudge without knowing anything about the school."

Playboy Associate Editor Alison Prato scoffed at the idea that Chico grads would have trouble finding employment based on the skin mag's party list, saying the No. 2 slot was actually "quite the honor" for Chico State.

"Anything that gets college kids reading Playboy is a good thing," she said.

Prato did admit, however, that the ranking was highly subjective, relying on student e-mails to determine school placement. In a somewhat more scientific poll, The Princeton Review Web site named Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind., this year's top party school on the basis of thousands of surveys sent to colleges across the country. In that ranking, Chico failed to show up among the top-five lists for partying, beer drinking, hard-alcohol use or marijuana smoking.

Prato said the Playboy listing was brought back in response to the many calls and letters the magazine gets from college students each year asking where their school placed on the list. The last time Playboy ranked party schools was 1987, when Chico was named No. 1. That year, Chico made national headlines when revelers at the subsequently-cancelled Pioneer Days event went on an alcohol-fueled destruction binge, fighting police, lighting bonfires and overturning cars south of campus.

The memory of that incident may have dimmed among the ranks of Chico police, said Chief Mike Efford, but trying to restrain crowds of up to 20,000 drunken revelers at Halloween every year has made the force quite aware that it could happen again. Efford said he had no idea whether the Playboy article would encourage more people to come to Chico this Halloween, but he did say that students and locals alike were getting tired of Chico's party image and the problems that go along with it.

As part of the new city policy to crack down on unsanctioned festivities, police will take an aggressive stance toward partygoers early in the afternoon this Halloween and will try their best to make sure trouble is stopped before it can start.

"We're not planning for an event," Efford said. "If you let something that is out of control happen, you're going to have a bad end. We're going to have a presence of officers, [and] we'll basically be telling people, 'Don't go downtown, that's a dangerous place to be.'"



Playboy again looking for the top party school


Chico ER March 20, 2002

Playboy magazine gave Chico State University its most infamous "honor" fifteen years ago when it named the university the No. 1 party school in the nation.

It hasn't done a similar ranking since, but once again the national men's magazine is looking for the top party school in the nation.

Recovering the educational reputation of Chico State was a concern in 1987 when Chico State was spotlighted by Playboy, especially after the rioting that took place April 24 of that year. The riot was broadcast nationwide and resulted in the canceling of Pioneer Days, a week-long spring event.

Shawna Quinn, director of the Campus Alcohol and Drug Education Center, said things have changed in the intervening years.

"Students have more information," she said, "but it hasn't really changed their behavior."

Especially since the death of Chico State freshman Adrian Heidemann, more students have become aware that it is possible to die from alcohol poisoning.

"More friends are taking their friends to the hospital," Quinn added. The number of hospital admissions for alcohol overdoses has gone up, she said. The awareness of the problem is heightened and the whole community is concerned.

When asked about the Playboy survey, Quinn said she wished they wouldn't do it.

"It's not responsible journalism," she said. "They are trying to sensationalize the situations."

Does Playboy have a responsibility to provide information on how to party safely? Quinn laughed and said: "They don't have a responsibility to do anything. They'll do what ever they want to do."

Playboy says a yearly ranking is "urban legend." According to its Web site, "Our last roundup was in 1987 when our Top 40 Party Colleges listed the most lascivious schools in the nation. The winner? California State University, Chico."

Allison Lundgren, the author of the coming survey said they are still in stage one. The message has been up on the Web site for four weeks now, and they are still gathering anecdotes and information. Stage two will be actual visits to the campuses.

"We're looking for 'the good life,'" Lundgren said.

The good life: what is reflected in the photographs and features that make up the overall message of Playboy.

"We're looking for the basic debaucheries," said Lundgren, who has been writing for the magazine for about five years.

This year's St. Patrick's Day weekend in Chico saw 107 people arrested and three reported rapes. When asked if the magazine was taking safety into account, Lundgren said the magazine really didn't want to focus on the dark stuff.

"We haven't gotten that far (into the story)," Lundgren said. "It's supposed to be fun and light-hearted."

Chico police Chief Mike Efford asked: "Who's to say (Playboy's) viewpoint isn't skewed? Because Playboy said it, we're going to believe it? Here is a company - when you type in Playboy - goes right to a Jack Daniel's advertisement."

Efford said the "party school" tag was an "inaccurate and unfair stigma placed on the community in the first place."

University President Manuel Esteban said, in a written statement, "I hope our students will realize that participating in any 'party survey' will not benefit them or enhance the value of their degrees."