Books, Crime, Gay, Harvard, Lesbians, Libraries / Librarians

Are Urine-Soaked Harvard Books Evidence of A Hate Crime?

I’m on record as being generally uncomfortable with hate crime designations. I’m not against hate crime laws across the board. You show me a guy with a demonstrable history of bigotry who then goes around beating people of some particular group, and I’m all for enhanced punishment. But in general I don’t think the state should be involved in punishing what’s in a man’s heart. If you murder someone, you are a hater; does it really matter why you hated the person?

And hate crime laws seem to force law enforcement into ridiculous positions. They’ve got to try to use physical evidence to prove or disprove what people were thinking when they did something. That’s like trying to figure out why I smoke based on my ashtray.

A great example of the problems with hate crime legislation is what’s going on at Harvard University right now. People found books in one of the undergraduate libraries were soaked in urine. But the books were about LGBT issues. HATE CRIME ALERT!

Or is it? Harvard police don’t really know, so they are being forced to say some absolutely ridiculous things…

Here’s the story, which I first read on Gawker:

Harvard University now claims that 36 pee-soaked LGBT books are not the work of a homophobic vandal, but a library employee who accidentally knocked over one of the many open containers of urine that apparently litter their campus. WTF?

Okay, we need to unpack some things from that paragraph:

  • 36 books at Harvard were soaked in pee? Are you goddamn kidding me? What is this, Tufts? That’s not supposed to happen at Harvard!
  • 36 books were soaked in pee and they thought it was a hate crime? Do you know how many times I’ve whizzed on the John Harvard statute in Harvard Yard? You don’t want to know. You don’t want to know how many times every Harvard College kid has peed on that statue. You don’t want to know about the time we had an engineering kid construct a brilliant upward funnel so my would-be wife could pee on that statute. Pee is how Harvard students express themselves!
  • Your official HARVARD UNIVERSITY explanation is that open containers of pee are just sitting around a Harvard library? Are you insane? What kind of world are we living in where they can’t even keep pee out of a Harvard library?

Again, as opposed to immediately focusing on who the hell is peeing on our books, the police immediately jumped to a hate crime designation. From the Harvard Crimson:

On November 24, library staff at Lamont discovered the damaged books—on subjects including lesbian and gay issues and same-sex marriage—along with a bottle assumed to have contained what investigators believed to be urine. This past Friday, library personnel reported the incident to the College and Harvard University Police Department as vandalism, and the affair was subsequently investigated as a hate crime for the “focused nature and related topics” of the affected books, according to [College Dean Evelynn M. Hammonds].

Dude. Why does it matter which books were peed on? Isn’t the much bigger question “who the f*** is peeing on our books?” Let me put it this way: if I’m walking down the street and somebody pees on me while shouting “N****R!” and then runs away, I want the police to go find that man. I DON’T CARE why he did it. I care that I’m sitting there soaked in FREAKING PEE.

But, but, but… in an attempt to remove the insidious hate crime distinction, Harvard police have come up with a patently ridiculous take:

But 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…

“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.”

What the hell are you talking about? That explanation doesn’t even make sense. You’re telling me that some student went through the trouble of peeing in a cup and placing it on a shelf, what, hoping that a librarian would accidentally knock it over? Who would do that? That’s not a “prank.” THAT’S NOT A PRANK! That’s a guy who never learned how to use a bathroom. You’re admitting those people to Harvard now?

And, if we’re going to talk about hate crimes, why did this alleged prankster place the cup of pee on a shelf in the LGBT section. OOOOHHHHH. I bet you didn’t think about that! He could have placed it anywhere, but he put the pee in the LGBT section on purpose. HATE CRIME ALERT!

This whole thing is beyond stupid. Somebody peed on some books and it’s a “hate crime” until we find out that somebody peed in a cup and placed the cup next to some books, and that makes it just a “prank” — the dumbest prank in the history of the world.

You know what would be far more simple? FIND THE GUY WHO PEED IN THE LIBRARY. Can HUPD focus on that, please?

Harvard Says Homophobic Pee Vandal Was Just a Clumsy Librarian [Gawker]
Damaged LGBT Books in Lamont Not Result of Hate Crime, Dean Says [Harvard Crimson]

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