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Coop Removes ‘IHTFP’ Shirt from Display

By Marissa Vogt


A shirt bearing the letters “IHTFP” was recently removed from display at the MIT Coop store in the Student Center after the store manager received a complaint reportedly originating from the Admissions Office.

The shirt was displayed in a highly-visible position in the store window.

“We wanted people to know that we had [the IHTFP shirt],” said store manager Barbara Boyton. “Alumni are always looking for it,”

Boyton said that the request came from someone who works in the Student Center who had been approached by a person in the Admissions Office. The “IHTFP” phrase, this person said, represented a different imagine of MIT than they wanted to put forth to prospective students. Because of this, Boyton was asked to remove the shirt from the display.

The shirt was then moved from its position in the store window to a more discreet area toward the back of the store.

Dean of Admissions Marilee Jones did not reply to requests for comment.

Shirt not licensed by MIT

Merchandise from the Coop bearing the MIT trademark or MIT-related insignia artwork is produce by manufacturers who have licenses with MIT to make specific products. But because the shirt did not have any specific reference to MIT on it or any insignia artwork, it did not have to be licensed through the Technology Licensing Office.

“If I see any artwork on the Coop showroom floor that misrepresents the MIT name or MIT trademarks, I usually begin by contacting either the vendor, the Coop manager or both,” said Magdalen Christian, legal assistant to counsel and trademark vendor administrator at the Tech Licensing Office.

In the case of the “IHTFP” shirt and other non-MIT insignia merchandise, “we couldn't tell them to remove it because it isn’t our property,” Christian said.

MIT controls Coop by lease

Jerry Murphy, the president of the Coop, said that the only way MIT has a relationship with The Coop is specifically in the Student Center store. If MIT felt a certain piece of non-MIT merchandise was offensive and violated the Coop’s lease, they could ask to have it removed, depending on the exact terms of the lease.

“As a general rule there are very specific things we can and cannot do. If the MIT logo was on the shirt, they would have complete control,” Murphy said. He said he was unsure if the vending of offensive material could be considered in violation of the lease.

‘IHTFP’ shirt will still be sold

Boyton said that she will continue to sell the shirt in the Student Center Coop.

“It’s part of the history of MIT, and that’s what the Coop is here for, to bring in what the customers request,” Boyton said.

“IHTFP,” which stands for “I Hate This Fucking Place,” has been an integral part of MIT vocabulary since before 1960. It has developed alternate meanings over the years, including “I Help Tutor Freshman Physics” and “Interesting Hacks To Fascinate People”.

Though she acknowledged that some people might be offended by the meaning of the acronym, Boyton was quick to point out that the phrase is frequently published elsewhere, including in the hack book and on various MIT-related Web sites.

“Not one person has approached me to ask what it means,” Boyton said. If they do, she said she’ll tell them “I Have The Finest Professors.”