Classmate with a hygiene problem

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Depending on the cause that could be very cruel. That one's first impulse is to punish even before understanding is disgusting/unacceptable in a individual that has authority over others.
[Sigh] Please read the rest of the thread. My goal would not be to punish, but to correct. The difference between me and most of the others here is who's concerns take priority. Others seem to be primarily concerned with the concerns of the perpetrator, whereas my concern is for the victims.

Also, while I am aware that there can be medical reasons for an odor, the description in the OP (wearing the same clothes over and over without washing them) precludes them from being a factor here and also implies that shaming may be necessary.

Indeed, in another way, you guys are looking at the "shaming" issue backwards: the students' only real power here is shame. The teacher is the only one who is guaranteed capable of dealing with the situation without shaming him in front of his peers.
It is a pity that smoking is prohibited in most classrooms in the West. I know of some excellent pipe tobaccos that could go a long way towards solving this delicate problem. (Even the most fanatic anti-smokers usually admit that they smell delicious, and they also keep insects away in Summer.)
I'm a non-smoker, but I love the smell of a good pipe. Of course there are bad pipes too, so the solution just sort of kicks the can down the road a bit.
No, the issue is that you and Sophia don't seem to recognize that the teacher *is* an authority.
I don't equate authority and the Latin concept of imperium.

IMO, in American society we have attempted to limit authority and increase liberty. Authority comes with an office (such as the instructor), but it is limited in extent and powers. Thus "we the people" grant some broad authoritative power to the government. The government grants more restrictive forms to more local authorities, and so on. The authority of an Instructor will thus seem to vary by jurisdiction.

I did not question an instructor's authority to prevent disruptive behavior. I questioned the wisdom of a student to insist the instructor use that authority when dealing with irritating behavior. (According to the document you cited, the instructor is responsible for having a talk outside of class. That is not a lot of authority. I'm sure instructors have more authority in other jurisdictions. As I said, it varies by circumstance.)

If you think the instructor should unilaterally claim extra authority, I do disagree. We are a free country and our laws are are laws.

See: Armstrong v. D.C. Public Library for a similar court case to the issues we are discussing. In it a homeless man semi-successfully sues for being denied entry to the library due to his objectionable appearance.

But not everything needs to be a federal case. I try politeness before trying authority.
[Sigh] Please read the rest of the thread.
I read the entire thread before posting [Sigh].

I had a friend (now deceased) who was on the Aspergers spectrum and had to be reminded to shower. I had no idea that it was possible to dismiss that possibility from the data that was given before shaming was pronounced as a good approach.

Operating on assumptions does not seem an approach consistent with a "scientific" approach to available data.
[Sigh] Please read the rest of the thread. My goal would not be to punish, but to correct. The difference between me and most of the others here is who's concerns take priority. Others seem to be primarily concerned with the concerns of the perpetrator, whereas my concern is for the victims.
Perhaps we don't see this as a crime?

I see it as the weighing of rights and responsibilities. Jefferson said:
"I know no safe depositary of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power."

Denying a person education is a very serious infringement not only of their rights, but of mine as well. While offensive odor is bad, tyranny is worse.

Thus I might see this as sort of situation as an opportunity to educate the offensive person rather than try to set up a victim/perpetrator situation. Benevolence works more often than not.
Is it possible it's a medical infection?

I've heard that things like yeast infections can really smell foul or fishy sometimes. If it's medical, maybe it's not a showering thing and he needs to see a doctor.
maybe he is allergic to showers. thats his medical condition

he is pretty darn stubborn if he doesnt shower. in my culture we call these subjects 'were not raised' right

it happens. i would avoid this person. i mean a classroom is pretty big right? at least 20 seats to pick from? i would go into class last minute before it starts and pick a good seat.

maybe this is a science experiment of sorts to see ur reaction. :mad:
I agree with russ_watters on this one. Just speak to the teacher about it. It is the teacher's responsibility to make sure the teaching environment is not disrupted. Why should we assume a teacher who is supposed to approach this issue in a professional manner would handle it less well than an annoyed and offended (and less likely to be mature) student?


Gold Member
I agree with Russ and DocZaius. Talk to the instructor and do it soon...before the classroom is infested with lice or bedbugs (like the emergency room where I work! ?:) when the 'unwashed' show up for treatment crawling with visible bugs).


I'd go with the anonymous letter, this allows you to say everything you need to and to choose your words carefully, while avoiding confrontation and unnecessary embarrassment.

Hi Sam! You've surely noticed how no one wants to sit near you in lectures, and how people don't invite you to join their group in practical classes. It's because you pong something terrible. We notice how you keep wearing the same clothes for weeks on end without laundrying, but that's only part of the problem. To put it bluntly, you need to take a shower every day, and buy yourself some deoderant, too. Everyone has to shower each day or we'd all stink. Maybe you're not aware of how bad you smell, but just look around at how others react to you and you'll see there is a major problem. If there isn't a shower where you are living, then you can easily join the college sports club and get free use of their campus showers. I'm sending you this as a letter to avoid embarrassment to us both; I'm not wanting to offend you, just asking you to start observing good personal hygiene. It goes without saying that after you graduate no employer is going to hire someone who smells dreadful and doesn't care. ..... Please take this in the good nature it is intended. Start taking a daily shower, and wash your clothes. I look forward to getting to know you better and becoming friends.

Then make 100 copies and have everyone in the class mail it to his letterbox!
maybe he is allergic to showers. thats his medical condition
If he's not taking showers and it's affecting you and others' ability to concentrate and perform in school, then you have a right to get him to leave I think. It's unfortunate that a college student, who seems to be smart, would allow his hygiene to get to that point. But, it doesn't mean others should have to suffer from it in a way that hurts their education.

Nevertheless, I think it could still be a medical condition. I have met a woman who had a medical condition that emitted a foul odor. There was little she could do about it other than cover it up with perfume. It wasn't that bad, but occasionally when a blast of air blew through you would catch a scent of it.

I felt sorry for her, but didn't make a big fuss about it. She was nice and the odor wasn't that bad (although noticeable). I think everyone else around her also just dealt with it by sucking it up. If it was very bad, though, I might have done something.

Just keep in mind that sometimes things like this aren't the other person's fault. It could be a medical condition.


Education Advisor
Gold Member
Don't sit near him? That seems like a pretty obvious solution.

This whole thread is basically a one sided perspective on something that could be rather complex. Perhaps the student works right before class at some crappy job shoveling cow manure, and that's why he stinks. Perhaps a million other things. Your observations of his steam account (really?) and that he appears to wear the same clothes (are they really the same, or does he just own 10 different grey shirts?) aren't enough to strictly say he's doing it because he wants to irritate people, or that he has some problem.

There were times when I went to community college in which I had spent the entire day sweating my butt off at work, and basically had 20 or so minutes to get to class on time after. There was no time to shower, and even though I changed clothes, I know I smelled rank. No one ever said anything, but I would have been quite angry if they had.

The adult thing to do in this situation is to be an adult, don't sit near this student. If that's unavoidable, grow a thicker skin and realize odors can't actually harm you.

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