Students trade in vulgar T-shirts
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - On Thursday, Kelly Folger made a trade with West Virginia University.
She gave up a T-shirt bearing a curse word - the type the school's athletic department has recently spoken out against - and in return, will be able to replace it with something more tasteful, using a $20 voucher good for university-licensed apparel.
She wasn't the only student who took advantage of the two-day deal sponsored by the Mountaineer Maniacs. At least 57 students traded in their offensive shirts for store credit Thursday. The exchange is set to continue today.
For Folger, a 20-year-old industrial engineering major, the decision was an easy one. She had bought the shirt as a freshman, when she thought it was funny, but had always been too ashamed to wear it.
"It's just been sitting in my drawer," she said. "Even before all this, I never wanted to disgrace the university by wearing it out."
The University began imploring students to stop wearing the shirts, which read "WEST F***** VIRGINIA," last week. Athletic Director Oliver Luck issued an open letter asking fans to "reconsider their choice of attire." After one of the T-shirts was seen on a national broadcast of the Sept. 4 football game against Marshall.
The letter had a polarizing effect on Mountaineer fans that have seen the shirts around town for at least 10 years.
The owner of the Morgantown company CollegeSchwag, the only storefront that sells the shirts, said he has received "hate mail and threats" since Luck issued his statement. Because of that, he asked not to be named in this story.
But despite the negative attention, he said sales of the T-shirts have quadrupled since the letter came out.
"I know one thing for sure, the students love it," he said. "It's a lot like pornography, if you don't like it, don't buy it and don't sell it."
He likes the shirts, and doesn't worry about the impact they have on the school's image. The evolution of a shirt like this was bound to happen, he said, given the culture in today's colleges.
"This the 21st century and it's not that big a deal," he said. "To the kids it's better than anyone else's, because the school wouldn't approve it."
The T-shirts are not licensed by the university, and do not directly reference WVU. They are manufactured by an out-of-state company.
Steve Staffileno, executive director of the Mountaineer Maniacs, was quick to criticize anyone involved with creating and selling the T-shirts. He's seen the shirts around since he began coming to WVU games as a small child, and didn't always realize the negative impact they could have, he said.
He never owned one of the vulgar T-shirts.
"I thought it was funny when I was in middle school," Staffileno said. "Now I see there's no room for shirts like this. They reflect so badly on the school and on Morgantown, and we can't afford that. This is not what Morgantown is about."