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  CO-ED  
 

Circulation: 250,000
Date of Birth: January 2005
Frequency: Quarterly
Price: $3.99
Natural Habitat: On a shelf somewhere between the bong and the beer funnel

By Nicholas Sabloff

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For those in pursuit of a sentimental education, Co-Ed magazine—the publication that promises to be “everything college”—is not the place to enroll. Launched in 2005 in order to fill a gap in the marketplace no one even knew existed, Co-Ed’s vision of college life is the one found on those posters of John Belushi from Animal House that decorate freshman dorm rooms: horny, beer-soaked, white, boorish, indulgent, incurious, apolitical. Over the course of 128 pages, it’s enough to make you fear for the fate of the academy, if not the republic.

Published quarterly, Co-Ed magazine’s style and content are little more than an amalgamation of countless other periodicals—Rolling Stone, Seventeen, Maximthatare readily available at the newsstand. All of its signature moves have been executed before: sex expert, sports, irreverent lists, celebrities, useless gadgets, ironic self-referencing, lesbianism-lite, centerfolds . . .

So what does editor-in-chief Kirk Miller, formerly an editor at Rolling Stone and Stuff, have in store for today’s undergraduates? The Spring 2007 issue offers a heady syllabus of general health warnings (“STDs Hit Campus: Why You Have One”), nutritional advice (“Why You So Fat? Beers [and Food] to Avoid”), shrewd cultural history (“101 Things that Changed College”—#55: The Thong), and “exclusive!” coverage of the fact that the rock band Fall Out Boy is “dating your mother” (say it ain’t so!). Judging solely on the basis of its contents, the editors’ inclusion of the magazine among the 101 things that changed college may prove somewhat premature.

At the center of each issue are profiles of four different colleges written by current students. These reports contain basic numerical facts about the school, an insider’s view of local nightlife, interviews with a famous alumnus (naturally, Dartmouth’s profile features the writer of Animal House), and the opportunity to learn that the favorite campus memory of Jimmy Chhor, a sophomore at UCLA, is the time he wore striped boxers and tennis shoes during the school’s “undie run.” The package is then tied together by giving each college a shot at branding itself—George Washington University’s claim to fame: “We’re Running for Office.” (God, I hope not.) If the demand for college guides and rankings in national magazines hadn’t previously reached a point of exhaustion, it has now.

The appeal of the magazine, if such a thing can be thought to exist, is presumably its wide array of Miss Co-Ed photo spreads, non-nude pictures that lack the art of Sports Illustrated and the titillation of Maxim. As a sign of its unflagging devotion to showcasing beautiful young women, Co-Ed displays girls from each college featured in that issue, as well as a virtual Miss Co-Ed (though she appears in print), “this month’s Miss Co-Ed (though it’s a quarterly), and an annual Miss Co-Ed. Lest these women appear objectified, the magazine takes the time to discover a few things about them—data that a man, particularly one at that university, should pay close attention to. (Currently, two out of three Miss Co-Eds at UCLA are obsessed with lip gloss.)

Is there anything to be learned from a lowbrow magazine whose editors have achieved the dubious distinction of producing a PG-13 version of a Girls Gone Wild video in print (other than how essential seeing actual breasts was to that enterprise)? Only that, for today’s college kids, spring break is not a vacation but a permanent state of mind.

As one might expect, Co-Ed isn’t terribly interested in politics, even of the campus variety. And this is just as well, because the magazine’s occasional forays into topics more exigent than how to become a professional condom tester can be rather contemptible. In an article about Muslim student groups combating racism on campus—located in the “survival guide” portion of the magazine, no less—the editors have not only chosen to title the piece “We Are Not Terrorists,” but have also listed it in the table of contents as “Get Involved: Muslim groups fight back (peacefully).”

How truly loathsome is that parenthetical! What’s worse, they probably meant no harm. Somewhere between the hard bodies and encomiums on behalf of bongs, Co-Ed has simply misplaced its brain. It seems that some people were never meant to graduate to adulthood.

From an editor’s letter by Kirk Miller on the subject of failure: “As pep talks go, this column has been somewhat of a failure. But who knows? If it helps one of you, then I’ve truly been successful. In failing. Failing in my success at failure. Uh, whatever.” Indeed.

 
 
 

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