Winters are cold. You'd like to see hobos clad in your rival school's jackets.
That was the tagline that used to welcome visitors to HoboJacket, a very politically incorrect -- and short-lived -- website designed to allow students and alumni to clothe the homeless in the colors of rival schools. Designed by MIT students Jin Pan and Cathie Yun, the website came out of a joke, according to Jezebel.
According to the site, Pan used to joke about donating jackets from MIT rival Caltech to the "unfortunate" because "it'll show the true value of a Caltech degree."
Boston Magazine wrote up the site, which declared itself an "edgy way to incentivize more people to donate."
Made with love by MIT students procrastinating on their homework, we hope you find our service tastefully offensive, laugh and help out the unfortunate with Caltech apparel.
According to the Daily Dot, the business model was simple:
You log on to the site, pick the school you went to (or proceed anonymously), scroll around until you find your rival's school, and then fill in a dollar amount that you'd like to donate. Pan then takes that donation and repurposes it towards each school's respective online shop, where he picks up jackets at an assumed cost of $10 a piece.
Not surprisingly, many people found HoboJacket less "edgy" and more extremely offensive.
— Andrea Yip (@andrealyip) November 29, 2012
— Lauren Hesse (@littlelenore) November 28, 2012
Pan initially took the criticism in stride, according to the Daily Dot, including accusations that he was objectifying the homeless for fun.
"I am guilty as charged," he said "Possibly because my Asian parents would incessently (sic) threaten me in my childhood that I would become a hobo, especially each time I got a B+ in elementary school. Possibly because I'm a horrible person and, to quote /r/circlejerk, ‘literally hitler’. Possibly because we don't have free choice and our consciousnesses are just artifacts arising from a world of strings dancing to the beat of physics."
But as of this morning, HoboJacket was no more, replaced instead with an apology from Pan.
I thought I had a clever idea for leveraging existing college rivalries to raise money to provide warm clothing for the homeless.
But I did not actually understand that my gimmick was dependent on objectifying the homeless.
The site's so-called edgy manner was designed to spread quickly, but I realize now that it also allowed my insensitivity to go viral.
I wish I could rewind time to Sunday and reverse the decision to take the site live.
But time is irreversible and I've learned a hard lesson.
I'm sorry that I offended so many, and I'm disappointed in my own lack of judgment.
I've matured a lot over the last 3 days in listening to the flood of more mature voices out there.
I especially apologize for using those who can't as easily speak up for themselves.
The site had raised enough money for hundreds of jackets. Pan said he will reach out to each donor, and if they don't respond, he will refund the donations, according to Boston Magazine.