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]


  1. ratbastard says

    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.

  2. Charlie-o says

    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.

  3. Jim says

    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.

  4. Alex Parrish says

    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.

  5. ratbastard says

    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.

  6. Josh says

    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”.

  7. ratbastard says

    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.

  8. simon says

    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.

  9. ratbastard says


    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.

  10. Brenda says

    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.

  11. says

    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.

  12. ratbastard says


    …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.

  13. Randy says

    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?

  14. Jason says


    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?!

  15. TampaZeke says

    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!

  16. says

    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? (http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2010/9/14/harvard-community-crimes-queer/)

  17. ratbastard says


    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.

  18. says

    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.

  19. says

    It is stupid to compare population densities of very large cities to small ones. Boston has the 3rd highest population density of all major US cities.

    But either way, what does it matter? Even if Cambridge was just as diverse as Boston, in terms of race, ethnicity, distribution of wealth, etc, it doesn’t change the fact that there is an abundance of hate/bias motivated crimes coming out of Harvard, disproportionate to other schools in the area.

    Further, these alleged coverups also seem to be becoming of hallmark of the school’s attitude and response to the crimes.

  20. ted says

    Thing is, if they had not reported the incident at all the vandal would not have gotten the publicity. Turns out there was no vandal, but the headlines have all gone out. The damage to gay/straight relations would have been averted. Several librarians on other blogs have reported the homelss as leaving pee bottles on shleves, as do lazy or “in a hurry” guys. The employee should have immediately pulled the books, washed them off, and kept their mouth shut. Would have been alot less trouble, and bookes that didn’t dry properly could have been replaced.

  21. hmmm says

    I graduated from Harvard College a few years ago and I spent many days and nights working in Lamont Library. Yet I have never EVER heard or seen of this so-called “guy so busy studying he must pee in a bottle and stow it somewhere” behavior.

    Get the @#$@ out! Color me incredulous.

  22. captain underpants says

    More like a bottle of bullshit
    Too bad in all the many hours ive spent in university libraries I have never once seen some hottie ungrad whip it out and pee in an old starbucks cup or mountain dew can
    I did once stumble upon two dudes in an nyu bathroom but that’s another story . . .
    Anyhoo this story is so full of shit
    What a strange coincidence that the books that get spilled on are about queers
    I doubt this has anything to do with homeless
    You can bet you cant get into widener without an ID

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