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Playboy's Party Schools

Claim:   Playboy magazine compiles annual rankings of America's top party schools.


FALSE:   Playboy magazine compiles annual rankings of America's top party schools.
TRUE:   Playboy magazine has sometimes printed other publications' rankings of America's top party schools.
TRUE:   Playboy magazine has occasionally published their own rankings of America's top party schools.

Origins:   Since Party about 1955, rumors have been aired at every college in the country that Playboy had conducted a survey of drinking on college campuses and used it to compile a list of "America's best party schools." Such a list has appeared in the pages of Playboy only three times, in its January 1987, November 2002, and May 2006 issues. However, there were two precursors to the full-blown list: the September 1968 issue listed the University of Wisconsin at Madison as the most permissive campus (drawn from a sample of 25 universities) and dubbed it "the party school," primarily because it served beer in the student union; likewise the October 1976 issue naming UCLA tops in "campus action."

Playboy has sometimes also used college rankings compiled by others, such as the list of The Top 20 Party Schools for 2000 as ranked by The Princeton Review.

Prior to 2002, Playboy had compiled such a list only once. It gave its reason for reprising this feature in 2002 as:
Campus legend has it that Playboy does a yearly ranking of America's
top party schools. Truth is, we haven't done such a roundup since 1987, when we tagged Cal State-Chico the craziest campus in the nation. Chico has had bragging rights for 15 years, causing students to binge with pride while parents and administrators have dried out fraternities and sororities and canceled Halloween. Some students have sent us e-mails that say "Don't you dare say Chico State. I'm sick of having to defend it. It's all because of your article 15 years ago!" Why do another ranking now? The kids demanded it, our public relations department is bombarded with calls from students who wonder where their schools rank. We wanted to hear what goes down on campus — the good, the bad and blurry — in your own words, more than 1500 of you wrote. These are your stories.
The 2002 list read as follows:

01.   Arizona State
02.   California State University, Chico
03.   Rollins
04.   Louisiana State
05.   West Virginia
06.   Colorado
07.   Wisconsin
08.   Connecticut
09.   Kansas
10.   San Diego State
11.   Georgia
12.   Ohio State
13.   Iowa State
14.   Florida State
15.   Colorado State
16.   Florida
17.   Tulane
18.   Washington State
19.   East Carolina
20.   Michigan State
21.   Mississippi
22.   University of California, Santa Barbara
23.   Lehigh
24.   Vanderbilt
25.   James Madison

Honorable Mentions: Miami of Ohio, Ohio University, Colgate, Penn State, Pitt, Southern Illinois, Slippery Rock, Tennessee, Texas, and Dayton.

The information for Playboy's 1987 list of party schools was compiled in 1986 from the reports of Playboy staffers who interviewed campus club leaders, dorm rush chairmen, fraternity presidents and other campus social studs at more than 250 schools nationwide.

The 1987 list read as follows:

01.   California State University, Chico
02.   University of Miami, Coral Gables
03.   San Diego State University, San Diego
04.   University of Vermont, Burlington
05.   Slippery Rock University, Pennsylvania
06.   University of Connecticut, Storrs
07.   West Virginia University, Morgantown
08.   Plymouth State College, Plymouth, New Hampshire
09.   Mercer University, Macon, Georgia
10.   University of Virginia, Charlottesville
11.   State University of New York, Cortland
12.   Colorado State University, Fort Collins
13.   Arizona State University, Tempe
14.   University of Nevada, Las Vegas
15.   Boston University, Boston
16.   Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant
17.   Southern Illinois University, Carbondale
18.   Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana
19.   Oklahoma State University, Stillwater
20.   Central Connecticut State University, New Britain
21.   University of Maryland, College Park
22.   University of Mississippi, Oxford
23.   West Georgia College, Carrollton
24.   University of Texas, Austin
25.   Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge
26.   University of Kansas, Lawrence
27.   Kansas State University, Manhattan
28.   Glassboro State College, Glassboro, New Jersey
29.   University of Florida, Gainesville
30.   Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond
31.   University of Iowa, Iowa City
32.   University of Oklahoma, Norman
33.   Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island
34.   Ohio University, Athens
35.   University of Massachusetts at Amherst
36.   University of Georgia, Athens
37.   Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge
38.   University of Missouri/Rolla
39.   Reed College, Portland, Oregon
40.   Fairhaven College, Bellingham, Washington

Honorable Mentions: Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Colorado at Boulder, Columbia, Dartmouth, Georgetown, Iowa State, Kent State, Michigan State, Penn State, Purdue, Rhode Island, Rutgers, Tennessee at Knoxville, Trinity College.

Gentle souls that they are, Playboy did its best to take the sting out of being left off the January 1987 compilation by stating, "If your school isn't listed, it's probably because we didn't include professionals."

Which leads us straight into the legend which has sprung up around this famed list.
Then there's the computer bulletin board-fueled story about the magazine (usually Playboy) that was ranking the Top 10 Party Schools in the country. Students at the University of Wisconsin were taken aback when their school didn't rate even an honorable mention; after all, everyone knows about the legendary cheesehead antics that go on in Madison. But when the kids contacted the magazine, they were told: "We don't rank professionals."
But of course this charming bit of blarney has been told about any number of schools, cheese-enhanced and otherwise.

Barbara "party line" Mikkelson

Update:   Playboy published another top party school list in 2006, naming University of Wisconsin-Madison No. 1 in its study of "books, babes and beer."

Last updated:   9 June 2011

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    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   The Baby Train.
    New York: W. W. Norton, 1993.   ISBN 0-393-31208-9   (p. 193).

    Prato, Alison.   "Playboy's Top 25 Party Schools."
    Playboy.   November 2002   (p. 89).

    Roeper, Richard.   "Tale of Peanut Butter Spreads Latest Legend."
    Chicago Sun-Times.   26 July 1994   (p. 11).

    Associated Press.   "Playboy Picks Wisconsin As Top Party School."
    5 April 2006.