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Are Tattoos Less Taboo on the College Scene?

January 22, 2010

by Agnes Jasinski

A new school that recently opened in Tinley Park, Illinois, hopes to lure out-of-work art students by offering a two-week intensive program that promises to teach them a new skill—body art.

The school, Bette Baron's Art of Body Coloring School, opened earlier this month, and faced little opposition from the town, which saw it as another opportunity for students seeking vocational schools. An article in the Chicago Tribune today describes how Bette Baron, the owner and a tattoo artist for the last 16 years, opened the school to take her mind off the death of her son, Brian. Her son's face and "Love You Forever Brian" decorate her left arm. "Even housewives are getting tattoos now," Baron said in the article. Students pay $900 tuition fee and $750 for a tattooing kit at the school, and can expect to make up to $100 once they become licensed body artists.

According to the Tribune article and a 2008 poll by Harris Interactive, 32 percent of adults ages 25 to 29 have tattoos. Do tattoos have a place in academia? Sure, ink and piercings been linked to all sorts of things, including deviant behavior, as Texas Tech University's school of sociology reported recently. (They say the more tattoos and piercings you have, the more likely you are to binge drink, fall into promiscuous behavior, get arrested, and use drugs.) Career counselors also usually suggest you keep your body art from public display when interviewing for a new job, especially if there's a dress code and a fairly conservative office staff.

But tattoos are also becoming the way academics express themselves. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently featured a series of scholars' photo submissions that displayed tattoos scholars got to commemorate their work, research, and theses. The tattoos in the series weren't considered taboo, but representative of the spirit and creativity of those academics. They included scholars who got inked with the symbol for the general formula of an ester linkage, coral fish, a double helix, and the phrase "read books" that came down the calves of an adjunct English instructor in Memphis. Lawrence K. Fulbeck, a professor of art who is the author of "Permanence: Tattoo Portraits," even went to Japan to have some tattoos done the old fashioned way—through an hours-long process using needles rather than an electric tattooing drill.

What do you think? Is body art so mainstream that you wouldn't be shocked to see your professor sporting a tattooed sleeve down his arm? Would any of you consider a permanent reminder of your academic work inked on your body?


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