The Three Harvard Traditions


There are three Harvard traditions that every freshman learns of soon after arriving on campus. Now, these aren’t traditions you would hear about browsing the official Harvard website or during an official tour. No, these traditions are a little less publicized…and a little more inappropriate. Why? Because they involve streaking, sex, and urination. What are these traditions, you ask? Let’s begin with:

#1: Primal Scream

As the temperature drops below zero (possible exaggeration) and final exams creep closer and closer, Harvard students need some sort of release. So when the clock strikes midnight, signaling the end of reading period, stressed Harvard students rush outside and the festivities begin. The Harvard band plays, the students strip off their clothes (some prefer to don capes or masks), and a gawking crowd forms. Yes, the tourists are ever-present, even at midnight nudist events. But if you don’t feel like revealing your body to peers whom you will be sitting next to in an exam in a couple of days, you can always stand on the sidelines and laugh at the crazy people running in the cold. Maybe even snap a few photos. Actually, don’t. That’s just creepy. But hey, maybe you’ll spy the girl you sat next to in Ec 10 freshman year. Wow, she looks good.

#2: Sex in the Stacks

The second tradition: hooking-up in the stacks of Widener Library. Viewed as a rite of passage for Harvard undergraduates, sex, or however you define “hooking-up,” in the stacks is Harvard’s nerdier version of the “mile-high club.” Of course, just because everyone knows about this tradition and talks about it doesn’t mean it happens very frequently. I stumbled upon a statistic (from 1996, so slightly outdated) that said only 6% of undergraduates have actually had sex in the stacks. I guess it’s a lot easier said than done. Regardless, if I’m ever looking for a book in an obscure part of the stacks, I’m going to make sure and stomp my feet all the way there, to ensure my presence is known. No surprise visitors please.

#3:  Defacing John Harvard

This would be my favorite of the three traditions. Maybe it’s because it can be completed at any time, or perhaps because I live in the dorm right next to the statue and see it occur nightly. Oh you poor tourists, if only you knew what happened to that statue on nights when drunk Harvard students roam freely. I sometimes even consider giving tourists fair warning, but then I remember several things:

1. I have to walk past that statue and those photo-taking tourists every single day on the way to class, and somehow it’s my fault when I walk through their photos. Don’t mind me, I just go here (and am late!)

2. It’s because of them that I have to hear the same joke about my dorm told in the same overly enthusiastic tour guide voice every hour. Heck, I think I could be a tour guide now if I wanted to!

3. I enjoy laughing at what they don’t know. (Sorry if that’s mean…)

And what is it that they don’t know? Oh, that students pee on the statue at night. Whoops, don’t the tour guides tell you to touch John Harvard’s big toe for good luck? Yeah, well you’re touching urine as well. But I’m almost completely convinced that they wash the statue every morning because I can smell that statue’s reek at night and if people aren’t noticing it during the day…well then, it must’ve been sprayed off or something.

But this tradition isn’t like the Widener Stacks one. People don’t just joke about it. No, no. I have passed guys standing proud and girls popping a squat on our good ol’ John Harvard, so I can personally attest to this tradition’s credibility. Maybe we Harvard students are just assholes, as this guy seems to think. As he poetically put it, we are “peeing on the aspirations of prospective students who would kill (or kill themselves working) to earn a spot at Harvard and just want a little extra luck so that they might be fortunate enough to be classmates with Harvardians. It seems like the ultimate gesture of superiority and the ultimate slap in the face to those who dream of being like them.” In my opinion, I think it’s jut a lot of drunk students who are too lazy to go inside and find a bathroom. But hey, to each his own.


  1. Hey!
    I thought only Princetonians were that juvenile!
    I do think they have outlawed the naked run. Surely you do start classes soon.

  2. Some very kind Harvard student did stop to tell us about the peeing tradition when we visited the campus last winter. We were very appreciative! Maybe every now and then you should tell some nice looking people just to see their expressions 😉

    Buena suerte en la universidad!

  3. If you’re ever in Ireland and opt to make a trek to Blarney Castle – for the love of cleanliness (or however): don’t kiss the Blarney Stone.

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