The Big Red Bear has finally met the Playboy Bunny and sparks are flying. This year, the cold weather at Cornell will usher in the University’s very own Playboy “Campus Representative.”
After coming to Cornell as a transfer in the spring, Louis Friend ’10 applied for the position with Playboy, thinking that Cornell could use the influence of the company best known for its infamous gentleman’s magazine. Playboy is working to appeal to college students by sponsoring parties on college campuses nation-wide.
“Cornell students deserve a Playboy Rep. We work too hard and we need to party,” Friend said.
Cornell is the second Ivy to get a campus rep, following in the footsteps of Yale. In his position, Friend will research the lucrative college student demographic.
“We stay ahead of trends and communicate to our bosses about trends on campus. It’s a very progressive magazine with progressive thinking and to stay in-tune with that [is their effort] to stay ahead of trends,” Friend said. “The Campus Rep. comes in to tell Playboy exactly what college students are doing these days.”
Friend is also responsible for projecting the brand’s name and image across campus.
“[Playboy will] give me free apparel and products to give away and essentially, I’m going to figure out how to get a table on Ho Plaza and do giveaways and take pictures of people wearing the products and send them to Playboy. But the more fun way [to get Playboy’s name out] would be to sponsor parties,” Friend said.
Additionally, Friend has been meeting with executive boards of fraternities trying to organize Playboy-sponsored parties.
“I’ve spoken to a few fraternities and it doesn’t seem to be too difficult to get their attention drawn to Playboy,” Friend said. “But there are obviously a lot of rules from the [Interfraternity Council].”
Gregory Schvey ’09, president of the IFC, does not seem concerned about Playboy’s presence in the Greek system, as long as it is monitored.
“We live in a capitalist society, so we can’t tell a business they can’t come in,” Schvey said.
Despite his focus on sponsoring fraternity parties, one of Friend’s goals is to unite Cornell by targeting Playboy to the entire student population.
“My goal from the beginning was to make these parties fun, vary them among fraternities, and to make it for people outside of fraternities to feel welcome,” Friend said.
“I know it gets very political when you start throwing parties at fraternities so I want to stay away from that. When I meet with the executive boards I discuss whether or not the frat would be a good fit for Playboy and if we decided to do it, it would be something along the lines of a ‘Playboy Presents’ party. No finance would be involved. We give products and the Playboy name — bunny ears, t-shirts and apparel.”
Because of the nature of the Playboy company, Schvey said that its presence would be especially monitored.
“What it comes down to is if it’s just a bunny on a shirt, then that’s not a problem,” Schvey said. “But whatever you can imagine on the side of offensive would need to be taken care of; if there are pictures and things that are offensive to people, then absolutely not. But if it’s a brand and merchandise, things you can buy at the mall, then why not?”
Prof. Amy Villarejo, feminist, gender and sexuality studies, asserted that first and foremost, students shouldn’t be employed to promote brands on campus without University regulation because of the fact that Cornell is a non-profit organization.
Additionally she believes that the University “shouldn’t be a venue for a swag free-for-all.”
According to Villarejo, having a Playboy rep on campus presents further issues.
“Fraternities will have access to straight pornography that circulates a narrow view of sexual and erotic life and that has never much been interested in women’s agency, pleasure or power,” Villarejo stated in an email. “It is linked to a broader world in which women are routinely degraded and exploited, and the arrangement of brand promotion neither leads to a diversity of sexual images, nor does it prompt a conversation about these images and their role in social life.”
Villarejo continued: “Instead, it seems to me a cynical way, by pretending to use the student representative as a ‘researcher,’ to gain inroads into what could be a lucrative market for its magazine and larger brand.”
Friend is not concerned with campus criticisms of what he is doing.
“The people who criticize it aren’t the types to read Playboy. You’d be very surprised with the content. You have to be an intellectual reader to get it. And in my opinion, Playboy treats women as demi-gods, glamorizing them and never degrading or treating them poorly,” Friend said.
Friend added, “If you have a problem with it then I would hope you’d pick up the magazine and read it.”