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Visiting Harvard Yard? Don’t take photos in the windows

Visitors took photos by the John Harvard statue on Thursday.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Even during the recent heat wave, Harvard University freshman Chase Aldridge kept his first-floor dorm window on Harvard Yard closed.

It seemed to be the best way, he said, to keep curious tourists from peering into his room, smartphone cameras at the ready.

“To just walk by and look in, that’s an intrusion on your life,” Aldridge said. “If you’re in your actual home, people aren’t just going to walk by and look in your house. If they do the same thing here, it’s kind of weird.”

With some students saying they feel as if they’re in a zoo, university officials have posted sandwich board signs reminding the hundreds of thousands of tourists each year from across the world that some kinds of sightseeing just go too far.


The signs include several rules, including one explicitly stating that holding cameras up to dorm windows and taking photos of the budding scholars inside is prohibited. The buildings in the Yard include freshman dorms, classroom buildings, libraries, and offices.

“Harvard appreciates and values the thousands of visitors from the United States and abroad who are drawn to our campus by its long history and academic excellence,” the school said in a statement. “At the same time, we must ensure the safety, security, and privacy of the hundreds of freshman who live in Harvard Yard.”

The new rules were the result of several months of dialogue and “a rigorous review of campus needs,” the university said. The school shared the rules with tour providers as well as the Cambridge and Boston tourism bureaus.

Several freshmen said Thursday that they welcomed the new signs as an antidote to the mobs of sightseers.

“Sometimes there’s a bunch of tourists just standing right outside, looking in my window,” said Cameron Comrie, who lives in the Canaday Hall dorm. “It’s a little much. But in general, I like the feel of campus with all the tourists.”


Lyndon Hanrahan said adjusting to the “oddity” of the tourism has been a new experience, but he understands the attraction to the school grounds.

He said he had heard tales from fellow students of tourists trying to get photos through the windows. But he said that in his circle of friends, it has become more of a “funny story” to share with each other.

“Some people find it quite weird,” Hanrahan said.

At least one student on the first floor said overzealous picture-taking tourists have not been a major problem so far.

“Usually, they respect your privacy to a very good degree,” Mike Floodstrand said. “It’s not horrible.”

Aside from asking visitors to “respect the privacy of students,” the signs note that tour guides are responsible for ensuring their groups follow the rules.

Other rules on the signs specify that tourists must maintain “respectful sound levels” by not using megaphones, microphones, or loudspeakers; refrain from walking through privately held events; and keep foot traffic moving so that the sidewalks and pathways don’t get clogged.

In 2014, nearly 45,000 people took the official Harvard tour, and an additional 45,000 stopped into the school’s information center. Officials say they’re on track to see at least that many, if not more, this year, but that doesn’t account for the flood of visitors brought by independent tour companies, university officials said.

At about 8 a.m. Thursday, the quad was already alive with camera-toting people who appeared to be international tourists. By late afternoon, tours were underway.


Daniel Andrew, founder of Trademark Tours, which conducts The Hahvahd Tour, said his company hasn’t had issues with customers crossing the line.

“Most guests are respectful, and we route our tours to avoid getting too close to dorms,” he said in an e-mail.

Andrew said Harvard included his company in discussions during the drafting of the rules.

Mario Reis and his wife, Andrea, broke off from The Hahvahd Tour Thursday as a torrential downpour began.

They said their guide had mentioned that taking photos inside the dorms and classroom buildings was prohibited, which they thought was justifiable.

“It’s a rule, and you have to follow it,” Mario Reis said.

Felicia Gans can be reached at felicia.gans@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @FeliciaGans.