Update, 12/14/10: Harvard College now says the urine-damaged books were the result of an “accident,” and not a suspected hate crime as University police originally suspected. Read the full article here.
At least 40 books at a Harvard college library dealing with LGBT subject matter have been vandalized with what appeared to be urine, and University police are investigating the incident as a hate crime.
According to the student newspaper, The Crimson, staff at the Lamont Harvard College Undergraduate Library filed a police report with university police regarding an incident that took place on Nov. 24.
Library spokeswoman Beth S. Brainard told The Crimson that library staff had also found a bottle near the damaged books that allegedly had some traces of urine left in it. Brainard said that library staff then removed the damage books from Lamont Library and sent them to another campus facility.
Staff initially responded to the incident as a health hazard, quickly removing the bottle and relocating the damaged books to the Collections Conservation Lab on Level D of Widener Library.
Brainard said that the library staff assessed the value of the vandalized books before reporting the incident, accounting for the space of two weeks between the incident and the report to HUPD. The books—which Brainard estimated to be worth a few thousand dollars—will be discarded due to the severity of the damage.
“Once the urine is poured, they can’t really fix [the books],” she said
A spokesperson for Harvard University Police department told The Crimson that due to the subject matter of the damaged collection, university police were treating this incident as a hate crime.
“The HUPD has zero tolerance for any bias-related incidents or crimes,” said HUPD spokesman Steven G. Catalano, in an e-mail.
Marco Chan, co-chair of the Harvard College Queer Students and Allies, called the incident “extremely frustrating” and “disconcerting.”
“I am very outraged. It is hard to conceive this as a coincidence when there are 40 books on the same subject,” Chan said. “The message that this incident sent to me is that we need more resources not only for the LGBT community but also targeted towards other people.”