The John Harvard statue is probably the most touched object in the University. Its left foot is subjected to almost incessant rubbing by tourists who believe that the act brings good luck; the standard pose, for photos, is to place a hand on John Harvard’s shoe, which has become shiny from the human contact.
But Harvard students themselves know better than to touch it—not least because one of three traditional deeds* that some College students strive to complete before graduation involves urinating on John Harvard.
So, how clean is the John Harvard statue?
Administrative staff in charge of its maintenance say the statue is cleaned on an as-needed basis, and is power-washed five to six times a year. “The maintenance really revolves around when the students do their business on it,” reports Joel Day, the facilities manager of University Hall. “The grounds crew are good at noticing; sometimes you can walk by and it smells like it needs to be cleaned.” The statue is not washed during winter, he adds, because hosing it in freezing temperatures would create slipping hazards. ...
Do the maintenance staff themselves think it’s hygienic to touch the statue?
“I don’t imagine it would be hygienic, but I don’t know how you would avoid it,” says McCarthy.
“They really should put a sanitizing station there,” says Day.
“I wouldn’t do it,” says Smith.
--Zara Zhang, Harvard Magazine, on what every Harvard student knows