Vanier Student Association drops Playboy Condoms sponsorship

Photo by Madelayne Hajek

Vanier College’s administration rejected the student association’s wish for Playboy Condoms to sponsor their upcoming winter festival last Tuesday, thus depriving them of their sole sponsor for the event and ending a contentious dispute.

In an article published on Oct. 16, The Concordian revealed that the VCSA established a verbal deal with Playboy Condoms, a condom company that shares the Playboy Enterprise’s name and associated with their trademark bunny logo, to sponsor their end of semester party.

In exchange for space on campus to promote their products and safe sex practices during the event, the company promised a financial and material contribution to help the student association organize the event.

According to Monique Magnan, director of student services at Vanier, a previously planned management executive committee meeting held last Tuesday, led to the unanimous agreement on the ineligibility of the VCSA’s chosen sponsor. Following the meeting, the committee contacted the VCSA to demand the student executives cancel any possible deal with Playboy Condoms.

“Although the VCSA has a certain margin of autonomy, they need the school’s permission to have external business companies on campus,” said Magnan. “We collectively agreed that the school could not have a company harbouring Playboy’s image on campus, one related to pornography and exploitation of women for 60 years […] whether the company is directly related to Playboy Enterprise or not.”

VCSA President Alexander Liberio said that in face of the “controversy,” the VCSA council will be addressing the issue during a regular meeting to decide whether they wanted to continue with the event on campus and follow the school’s directives to sacrifice the sponsorship, to negotiate with the administration, or to take the winter festival to a different location in order to keep the sponsor.

“Now that we have a full council, there’s much more division on the matter and not everybody is in favour of [the sponsorship] like it was the case in summer,” said Liberio, who insisted he opposed the contract from the beginning. “Given the controversy, I wouldn’t think we would go with Playboy Condoms again for any future events.”

According to Liberio, Vanier’s students services’ office approved the sponsorship when they were first notified in September but then decided to vet it through their committee following rising tensions.

Conversely, Magnan told The Concordian she never approved of the sponsorship. After Taruna Kaur-Singh, VCSA’s special projects officer, approached her a second time with the idea on Oct. 11, Magnan asked her to hold off the deal until she consulted the executive committee. This was something Kaur-Singh ignored, according to Magnan, and continued with the deal until Oct.16.

Magnan explained that the VCSA’s liberty to initiate the deal without the school administration’s permission was based on “miscommunication and inexperience.”

She also went on to say that misunderstandings of a similar nature are rare at the college. According to Magnan, the VCSA and administration are usually in constant communication with one another.

“The idea is also to use this experience to educate student executives about the company they chose and the values it promotes,” she added.

Magnan notably insisted that, unlike some of the other schools that Playboy Condoms will be visiting during their sexual awareness “Playin’ It Safe” tour, Vanier College is a CÉGEP and not a community college.

“CÉGEPS still keep a high school feeling,” she said. “Many of our students are 16 or 17 and Vanier College cannot be associated with Playboy, mainly because the company does not share the values we want to disseminate among our students, even though we do promote safe sex.”

Anthony Kantara of the Vanier Mob Squad, the group behind a petition launched last summer against the sponsorship, said he was pleased by the school’s decision to disallow the bunny logo on campus but wished both the VCSA and the school administration kept the student body more informed about their decisions.

Playboy Condoms representatives have since been contacted by both the VCSA and the school administration, and the posting of Vanier College as one of the destinations of the “Playin’ It Safe” tour was officially taken down from their website on Oct. 20.

“It is a shame we had to go to Playboy Condoms’ website to see the cancellation,” added Kantara.


Playboy shakes up Vanier College

Photo by Madelayne Hajek
UPDATE: Vanier’s Student Association has since dropped Playboy Condoms as a sponsor for their winter carnival. Read the follow-up story here.

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Vanier College’s winter carnival has a new controversial sponsor which is creating waves on campus and beyond. The CÉGEP accepted the offer to have Playboy Condoms, a new brand of condoms bearing the Playboy name, sponsor the carnival.

As part of their sexual awareness “Playin’ It Safe Tour” in seven different CÉGEPs and universities in Canada, Playboy Condoms will be on campus during the Vanier winter festival on Dec. 7, 2012 to promote their new product.

In exchange, the bunny logo company pledged a financial contribution to the Vanier College Student Association for prizes, games and contests organized for the event, as well as investing in goodies.

As expected, the idea was not welcomed by all students at Vanier College and quickly triggered a petition pressuring the VCSA to break the deal.

Anthony Kantara, member of the Vanier College Mob Squad that created the petition, said he was concerned about the increasing corporate presence on campus.

“The fact that it’s a company that is mostly linked to pornography is even more worrying,” Kantara said. “School should be a sacred institution without commercial influence, especially not Playboy’s.”

The petition created last summer, has been signed by 110 individuals so far. It states that although “the VCSA claims [the sponsorship] is ‘OK’ since [Playboy Condoms] is promoting safe sex,” they demanded that the student union cancel any deal with a company that is connected to pornography, as well as “sexist and degrading [content] toward women.”

According to Taruna Kaur-Singh, VCSA special projects officer and student leader behind the sponsorship deal, the arrangement is not yet “set in stone.”

Since a contract has yet to be finalized, Kaur-Singh could not reveal a precise figure regarding the contribution from Playboy Condoms but explained she accepted the deal mainly for financial reasons.

“I am a woman too and I understand why this sponsorship is perceived as offensive to some but I also had to think about the financial needs for the event and my business side took over,” she said.

In response, Kantara claimed that Vanier College has one of the largest CÉGEP student association budgets in the province.

“Money is not an issue in this debate,” said Kantara. “The executives are just looking for an excuse to try to make the event more fun.”

Kaur-Singh said the idea was also to attract a certain demographic “that don’t usually participate in school activities but who would recognize a brand like Playboy.” She also emphasized the benefits of raising awareness regarding safe sex.

But the Vanier Mob Squad said it was not an excuse for making a deal without consulting the student body and keeping students uninformed on the nature of the arrangement.

During the summer, VCSA voted twice on council on whether or not to make Playboy Condoms a sponsor for the event. According to Kaur-Singh, both votes were in favour of the deal, the first one passing unanimously and the second one — after the creation of the petition — passed by a “large majority.”

Kaur-Singh said that although she did not have the chance to discuss offers with other businesses because of time constraints, Playboy Condoms was the only company to offer a sponsorship so far.

While Playboy Condoms already started investing money in producing T-shirts, pamphlets and other products for the occasion, the Vanier Mob Squad is trying to mobilize the teacher’s and parent’s association to pressure VCSA on holding off the deal until the decision is taken to a vote in a general assembly.

Kaur-Singh admitted she heard some teachers were concerned by the sponsorship and said she was still looking into the matter. She also affirmed that the deal could be cancelled at any moment, which would implicate cutting into other expenses but without requiring compensation to the condom company.

On their part, Playboy Condoms has already announced Vanier College as one of their destinations of the “Playin’ It Safe Tour” on their website.

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11:20 a.m. 17/10/2012 – Corrections made to story

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