MIT Students Want to Offend You Into Giving to the Homeless

An offensive fundraiser with the best of intentions.

A screenshot from “Hobo Jacket”

Authors of a website who claim to be students at MIT are attempting to offend us into donating to the homeless with a self-consciously “politically incorrect” project calledHobo Jacket.”  The site allows people to give money toward the purchase of jackets emblazoned with the logo of their rival schools. Said jackets will then be given to the homeless, to the joy of the cold person and the embarrassment of the target university … or so the site creators hope. The site declares:

HoboJacket is meant to be 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.

(We’ve reached out to the site authors to confirm their identity as MIT students and their earnest intentions, though we have yet to hear back.)

The slightly unclean feeling you’re feeling right now might have to do with the prospect of making a pawn of the homeless by mixing up your concern for them with your useless private school rivalries. You’re sure someone left out in the cold would love something to keep them warm. You’re not so sure they’d like to suffer the dehumanizing indignity of having passerby see them and think, “Why, that hobo went to Yale? And now he’s on the street? Why, Yale must be some kind of a safety school! I’ll wager he majored in something like gender studies! [Chortle, chortle.]” People like the Globe’s Scott Kirsner are, understandably, left a little conflicted.

Perhaps that is the reason that the school with the highest number of donated coats isn’t Caltech. It’s MIT, according to the site’s leader board. As an internet statement goes, that’s a mixed one. People seem to be saying, “We’ll buy into this, but we think you’re offensive so we’ll punish your school.” They are still participating in the joke. Alternatively, the donations come from MIT kids who’d like their university to be associated with helping others in need.

There is, of course, another way to acknowledge the good intentions behind “Hobo Jacket” without wrapping a homeless person in the punchline to your elitist joke. You could just ex out the “Hobo jacket” tab and go donate a coat to the homeless that doesn’t have a college logo attached.

  • Jake

    Really? Honestly the idea is more amusing to me than anything else. It depresses me that people whine and moan about insensitivity and offensivity when all a student is trying to do is give incentive to people to donate money to a good cause: that’s more than I can say for most people. I’m pretty certain that the people this affects the most–namely, the homeless–couldn’t care less what their sweatshirts say.

    So maybe you should get off your high horse and recognize that not everything in this world is perfect and that a lot of us are just trying our best. I, for one, approve of Jin Pan’s boldness in creating the site and keeping it running, even under fire from ungrateful people who are more concerned with political correctness than actually helping others.

    • Eric Randall

      I’m not sure that the crisis of warm clothes is such that we need to throw up our hands and say, “Well we can’t find a perfect way to raise funds for people in need, so we might as well go the gimmicky route.”

    • Origami Isopod

      Yeah, it’s so damn silly to worry about reinforcing how much society mocks and despises homeless people, isn’t it? I mean, that can’t possibly harm them, right? And one must totally be “perfect” to understand such issues….

      Goddamn, am I tired of people who still use “politically incorrect” as though it means anything other than “I want to be an insensitive jerk and have you praise me for it like I’m bucking instead of shoring up the status quo.”

      Oh, and by the way, I’m pretty sure that a majority of the people “whining” about this do more for the poor than some jackhole MIT student has ever done. Especially considering that charities are awash in old clothes.

  • Tim Eliason

    Will someone please help me get in contact with the person who set up this site Mr. Jin Pan. I am from West Central Minnesota and see this potential this site offers to helping those less fortunate to receive items they desperately need. I am a graduate student willing to take over the costs of the to champion this idea of helping the less fortunate that need our charitable giving. I feel turning this into a competition to see which can give the most will only help benefit those who need our help.