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Harvard Library Urine 'Attack' Labeled an Accident, Not a Hate Crime

Yesterday I posted about reports that a vandal had destroyed a section of LGBT books at the Harvard Library in November by soaking them in urine. Approximately 40 books worth several thousand dollars were destroyed.

Hammonds Now, College Dean Evelynn M. Hammonds, in a statement to the school, is reporting that it was not the work of someone making a hateful statement by targeting the LGBT, but a clumsy worker who spilled a bottle of urine that was left on a shelf.

...upon an investigation by HUPD, it was revealed Monday morning that "our own library personnel" had accidentally spilled a bottle, containing what was reported to be urine, that had been found on the shelf, according to Hammonds. Harvard College Library plans to replace all 36 damaged books as soon as possible, she added.

"I believe this is an important new fact in the investigation and warrants my sharing it with you immediately. While we should not minimize the seriousness of this incident, HUPD is no longer classifying this incident as a hate crime," Hammonds wrote in her statement. "This nuance in the facts in the case also explains why library personnel did not immediately report the incident and treated it instead as a prank."

Questions remain.

Books Faculty of Arts and Sciences spokesman Jeff Neal wrote in an e-mail that it remains unclear why a bottle of urine was stowed in the library, adding that the spill was reported by the library employee—the same person who caused the spill, according to his understanding—and cleaned up the same day that it occurred.


Though Harvard College Queer Students and Allies Co-Chair Marco Chan '11 expressed relief that the damage was the result of an accident and not a targeted act of homophobia, he said that he remained concerned by facts of the incident that remain unexplained.

"On the one hand, I feel relieved by the news—but on the other hand, I’m still holding breath on questions that are still unresolved," Chan said. "Why was there a bottle of urine on the shelf? Why did it take two weeks for library or HUPD to figure out that this was just an accident? Did someone suddenly come forward?"

The incident has had one benefit, toward raising awareness about diversity and inclusion on campus.

In the e-mail containing the link to Hammonds’ official statement, the Dean addressed students at the College with the hope that the incident would reaffirm the integrity of the College’s diverse community.

“This is an important moment to reiterate our shared values and to note that Harvard College mandates that everyone show respect to all members of our community," Hammonds wrote. "I hope you will join me in espousing and practicing these shared principles."

Damaged LGBT Books in Lamont Not Result of Hate Crime, Dean Says [Harvard Crimson]

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  1. Exactly how does someone spilling a bottle of pee [deliberately or by accident] re-enforce Harvard or anyone raising awareness about diversity and inclusion? Awareness about what? Pee? Water sports fetishes?

    The whole thing is actually kind of embarrassing for all concerned. These incidences can contribute just as easily to the boy who cried wolf effect.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Dec 14, 2010 9:17:36 AM

  2. A bottle of urine is left on a shelf and a clumsy worker accidentally spills it on LGBT books. Although it's possible, this explanation strains credulity. This reminds me of how Rosemary Woods accidentally erased the Nixon tapes. There's more to this story.

    Posted by: Charlie-o | Dec 14, 2010 9:29:18 AM

  3. OMG, i left my bottle of piss at my neighborhood library too!

    Posted by: normadesmond | Dec 14, 2010 9:30:31 AM

  4. In defense of the library employee, they may have been eating a twinkie. This has been known to make people lose control of their faculties, knock things over, etc.

    Posted by: Jim | Dec 14, 2010 9:30:36 AM

  5. Not cool at all. Unhappy straight piss tops?

    Posted by: Paul Rodriguez | Dec 14, 2010 9:34:34 AM

  6. accident my ass.

    Posted by: gaylib | Dec 14, 2010 9:42:32 AM

  7. PUH-leeze! A bottle of urine left on the library shelf (apparently in the LGBT section) and that's "business as usual?" (Oddly enough I can believe that part) but then a library employee accidentally spills it on the L:GBT books, reports the 'accident' and somehow this report goes unheard for 2 weeks? I don't think so. Something stinks here and it's not just the urine.

    Posted by: Alex Parrish | Dec 14, 2010 9:49:52 AM

  8. HOW does anyone prove what really happened? The best investigators can do now is try and elicit a version of what happened from a library employee who apparently has confessed to knocking over the bottle. The most obvious unanswered [as it's been so far reported] question is why was there a bottle of pee there, and who put it there. As strange as it seems, there's actually multiple explanations, especially in an environment like Harvard.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Dec 14, 2010 9:51:04 AM

  9. There's something fishy about this whole story.
    Apart from the obvious question of why a bottle of urine is left at a library, the number of books damaged and the reported value of the books (was it $11,000?) seems too great to correspond to the amount of damage one would expect from such a minor "accident".

    Posted by: Josh | Dec 14, 2010 9:54:31 AM

  10. Do you people know how much Harvard Police have on their plate? A LOT. Everything from a rash of violent street assaults and robberies around the main campus and business school to drug trafficking, fraud, etc., A bottle of spilled pee doesn't rank right up there. But of course it has political ramifications.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Dec 14, 2010 9:56:47 AM

  11. Accident is a rare coincidence but is still possible. For example, a member of the university was going to the medical center for a checkup. Before that, he or she went to the bathroom in the library to produce a urine sample. Then the person went to the bookshelf to check on some books and forgot to pick up the sample he or she left on the shelf. The person may be too embarrassed to report to the university administration after the accident. The person may even be closeted faculty member or student.

    Posted by: simon | Dec 14, 2010 9:59:35 AM

  12. Josh,

    Discrepancies in reporting are widespread, even in the best media outlets like the NYT. It's usually not indicative of a conspiracy, but sloppy reporting and poor editing.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Dec 14, 2010 10:00:44 AM

  13. That's an awful big bottle of urine to have splashed over all those books. A urine sample bottle is actually not big enough to cover thousands of dollars of books.

    Posted by: Brenda | Dec 14, 2010 10:05:49 AM

  14. Suburbs are always awful. Just get into the city and see some real diversity, where people actually know how to handle themselves around things that are different.

    I bet no one is pissing on the books over at Boston University.

    Posted by: TDRz | Dec 14, 2010 10:13:32 AM

  15. Good to know that HARVARD selects students who piss into a jar. And these are among the best and brightest students in the country?

    Posted by: Fred | Dec 14, 2010 10:18:11 AM

  16. @TDRZ,

    ...I used to work at BU's College of Basic Studies [C.B.S.], A.K.A. the Charlie Brown School.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Dec 14, 2010 10:37:20 AM

  17. @Ratb

    What's your point?

    Posted by: TDRz | Dec 14, 2010 10:40:01 AM

  18. @FRED,

    ...There's an old joke that I'll paraphrase:

    2 dudes are peeing at a urinal. One washes his hands, the other doesn't. The hand-washer says:

    'At Harvard, they teach us to wash our hands after going the bathroom.'

    'At Yale, they teach us not to piss on our hands', replies the other dude.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Dec 14, 2010 10:42:30 AM

  19. Without more details the story seems ridiculous and untrue. Who is lying about what? Who is so stupid as to think everybody is stupid?

    Posted by: John | Dec 14, 2010 10:43:32 AM

  20. I thought something seemed strange when so few books were damaged. If someone was going to damage LGBT-interest books, wouldn't they come prepared to damage them all?

    But what is abandoned urine doing in a library?

    Posted by: Randy | Dec 14, 2010 10:51:35 AM

  21. @TDRZ,

    Cambridge is hardly a suburb--it's right next to Boston and is as urban as anything (and arguably even more liberal). I don't think I get what you're talking about?!

    Posted by: Jason | Dec 14, 2010 10:58:14 AM

  22. Oh, OK. I feel so much better now that I know that this was just another incident of a bottle of urine that had been left on a library shelf being accidentally spilled by an employee on books in the gay section. I'm sure this happens more often than we might think. Probably a weekly occurrence, truth be known.

    I was afraid that it was going to turn out to be something crazy and unbelievable.

    I'm actually glad that I read this this morning. I was on my way to the library and would have completely forgotten to take my bottle of urine with me. How embarrassing!

    Posted by: TampaZeke | Dec 14, 2010 11:00:26 AM

  23. A suburb is the area around a large city that is largely residential. Cambridge is predominantly white and largely residential. And yes, duh, it's right next to Boston, that's what makes it a suburb. But what does the name matter anyway? It is what it is.

    You can argue that it is liberal all you want, and it might very well be, but like I said, are the kids pissing on books at BU? Robbing each other and hurling "fag" around? (

    Posted by: TDRz | Dec 14, 2010 11:08:18 AM

  24. TDRZ,

    Cambridge is a city, not a suburb. It's as urban as Boston. Ditto Somerville. Both even have higher population densities....higher than Boston or San Francisco, the 3rd and 2nd most densely populated big cities in America.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Dec 14, 2010 11:16:40 AM

  25. I can actually see some Joe College dude relieving himself in his empty Mountain Dew bottle among the bookstacks, then leaving it on a shelf because of embarrassment. It's possible during pre-test cramming. Stranger things have happened.

    Posted by: Tessie Tura | Dec 14, 2010 11:21:23 AM

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