Often here I read questions like "Should professors intervene if a student is wearing offensive clothing in their classroom?" and I don't understand why such things happen so often.

While I did my A-levels, I often wore "offensive" T-Shirts (maybe just to get some attention by moral-hypocrites [which rarely happened] as a teen, but what does it matter?), and right now, I still like band-t-shirts which happen to have offensive contents, just because I like the bands and the images. I was kind of a creep as a person, but still, I was quite popular and noone ever talked to anyone about offensive stuff. Not to me, and not to the teachers or the principial, with which I had quite a good friendship. And still now, in university, nobody ever came to me saying anything about that, neither teachers nor students, feeling offended.

Sure, if they don't tell me doesn't mean they are not, but I believe then they decided they can live with ignoring it.

So, my question is: why are academians so easily offended by just a t-shirt or such things. These are easy to ignore and there are way more important things. Academians should be intelligent enough to understand this, I believe.

(I certainly understand why sexism, racism, violence etc. in action are detested. In any way, I would try to stop everything of these (and other) things if I ever were to see them! But just an image is not an action and, in my experience, often people wear these things as "shadows" of their personality (i. e. the subconsciousness of what they aren't, just to put attention on those problems.)

It might be neccessary to say that I grep up and still live in germany; the extreme "political correctness" positions may be attributed to this. But the question still stays.

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    As it stands your question is at best opinion-based, at worst based on false premises. I see no evidence that academics are easily offended (in fact, my experience suggests the opposite, but that’s admittedly as unsubstantiated as your claims). The post you link does not allow to derive such a conclusion even about the asker because we do not know what the shirt in question was saying (and it is not relevant for the question either). What makes you think that you can compare it to what you have been wearing? I see no reason to believe that such posts are overly frequent here.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Jan 18, 2017 at 12:40
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    "Often here I read questions like..." could you link a few other posts (say: 5) that you feel support your premise? Otherwise this discussion is bound to focus on your 1 example, which I won't expect to have fruitful results.
    – dimpol
    Jan 18, 2017 at 12:42
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    This question really leads nowhere. I don't think OP can expect a real answer here. Since there is no possible helpful answer here or any value for readers, I vote to close.
    – Ian
    Jan 18, 2017 at 12:51
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    You say that you enjoy offensive music and content; essentially admitting that the t-shirts are offensive in some way. And you don't understand why others would take offense? Am I missing something?
    – Inde
    Jan 18, 2017 at 15:07
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    So you dressed offensively, no academic ever told you they were offended and now you want to know why academics are so easily offended? Am I getting this right?
    – sgf
    Jan 18, 2017 at 21:42

1 Answer 1


I have never had to take action, so the kind of "problem" you are referring to is in my experience, fortunately, very rare.

However, I will take action when needed, and a sufficiently offensive T-shirt does qualify. Not because I would be offended, but because as an educator I am in a position of power. With power comes responsibility, in this case a responsibility that everybody in the room feels secure. It does not matter whether you think that somebody can easily look away. If a person feels intimidated by your T-shirt, then the damage is done, and it is my responsibility to prevent that from happening or at least prevent it from happening again. This is a moral obligation I, and others I know, feel very strongly about. Moreover, depending on your jurisdiction it could also be a legal obligation.

So I don't think that the relevant distinction is between academics and non-academics, but between those who have power (and with that, responsibility) and those who don't. For example, also in the private sector you could easily get into trouble for wearing offensive T-shirts, even if you did not have contact with customers, and the reasoning would be the same.

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