Jin Pan, the MIT student behind “Hobo Jacket,” a viral, controversial website designed to provide coats to the homeless, has taken his site off the web and posted a heartfelt apology in its stead. “Hobo Jacket” raised money from people who wanted to donate coats emblazoned with the logo of their rival school. If all went according to plan, the homeless person would be warm, and horrid passers-by would think, “Wow that person went to CalTech and now he’s homeless. What a safety school!” In the wake of some outraged news coverage, Pan posted a rambling explanation to the site. He’s since replaced that with a less qualified apology:
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.
Pan tells us by e-mail that he is asking each of the many donors who gave to his site’s Pay Pal what they’d like done with their money, and if they don’t respond, he will refund it. If they respond that they’d still like to donate a college rival’s jacket, he will also refund the money. “But so far no one has wanted to donate college jackets when presented with some alternatives we suggested,” he writes.
Meanwhile, for a story about clothing the homeless that won’t leave you feeling vaguely uneasy, check out this one about an NYPD officer who buys a homeless, shoeless man in Times Square a pair of winter boots. Notably, the officer did not select a pair of boots that say “Newark Police Suck.”
Source URL: https://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/2012/11/29/au-revoir-hobo-jacket/
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