One of Many Caltech-MIT Pranks

The rivalry between Caltech and MIT has been brewing ever since April 2005, when Caltech students pulled off a series of pranks during MIT’s “Campus Preview Weekend,” geared toward incoming freshmen and their parents. Let’s just say, the Cambridge Institute wasn’t pleased to find palm trees placed on the school’s famed Great Dome.

One MIT student, Jin Pan, says he would joke that if he ever came into money, he would donate tons of Caltech jackets to the unfortunate, “because it’ll show the true value of a Caltech degree.” Although meant in jest, his sarcasm turned serious when he was looking to procrastinate on homework. Because why watch TV when you can code instead?

He launched HoboJacket with his friend Cathie Yun, describing the online platform as “the politically incorrect but right thing to do.” Through the site, users can donate their rival college’s jackets and shirts to the underserved and poverty stricken, “because it’s terribly unfortunate that people actually went to that other college.”

In an email to BostInno, Pan calls HoboJacket a social experiment, claiming he wanted “to see if it’s possible to leverage even one percent of the intensity surrounding college rivalries to create something more meaningful than four touchdowns.” Latching on to the competitive edge coupled with heated rivalries, HoboJacket is gamifying charity by showing off a leaderboard so students can see where clothing is being donated.

Pan has received mixed reactions. Some have described the move as one made in “poor taste,” while others have said the idea represents a “level of elitism and immaturity.” Because of this, Pan admits he has thought twice about his “prank,” although conjured up with good intentions. Moving forward, he says he is considering contacting every donor to see if they’re willing to let the HoboJacket team funnel their contributions toward a more traditional nonprofit, and then refund those who aren’t willing.

Pan doesn’t deny “objectifying the homeless” in his detailed backstory on HoboJacket, but does write:

One coincidental thing to note is that Zuck was accused of objectifying women with his little initial project that got him notoriety in the Social Network. If history does repeat itself, I’ll be glad that I’m not afraid to be very politically incorrect and made this site on a whim.

What do you think of HoboJacket? 

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Featured Photo Courtesy of MIT Admissions