Hide That Plutonium

The rumor spreads quick and fast around the standard Annenberg dining circle. One girl says, “I heard it’s why the

The rumor spreads quick and fast around the standard Annenberg dining circle. One girl says, “I heard it’s why the Bee can’t get a house!” while another chimes in, “Well, I heard it’s why Isis dropped their lease!” Yet another gripes, “Those sexists—if the Porc can have unsettlingly intimate sleepovers, why can’t we?”

The comments stem from a popular urban legend that groups of single women are outlawed from living communally because together, they constitute a brothel under local law. In actuality, there are no laws that label a dwelling a whorehouse simply because a bunch of ladies of high repute are living in the same abode.

But just because the brothel story is bogus doesn’t mean Harvard and the City of Cambridge don’t have some unusual laws.

If you’re interested in reenacting your favorite scene from “Seabiscuit” by going along at a nice clip down Mass. Ave., you might have to gallop over to the courthouse. Cambridge City ordinance dictates that horses and other “beasts of burden” are required to maintain a reasonable speed on local roads.  

And if you’re thinking about shaking out that trendy yet oh-so-filthy throw rug you picked up for a cool $50 at Urban Outfitters, you better think again. You’ll have to take your chores elsewhere, because municipal law forbids the shaking and cleaning of carpets or rugs in public commons of the city.

But our fair university is not immune to such ludicrous legislation. If you check out the graduate student handbook, you’ll find some pretty interesting protocol about bathroom etiquette (interestingly, there are no similar provisions in the undergraduate handbook). The book states that students living in university-provided housing must do their foot-washing in the shower, not in the sinks. And if you’re inclined to chewing tobacco, be careful when bathing—there’s no spitting in the showers.

Meanwhile, the Undergraduate Handbook explicitly forbids the “use or transport of any radioactive materials…without authorization of the University’s Department of Environmental Health and Safety.”  

When asked for his thoughts, Professor of Physics and nuclear scientist John Doyle said that “anyone who needs to work with such materials would benefit from a discussion with [the Department of Environmental Health and Safety].” Would it ever be okay to have enriched plutonium in, say, Canaday?  His reply was an unsurprising, yet unwavering “no.”

Needless to say, the university and its environs operate under some pretty strict standards, but they are there to keep us safe and healthy. And hey, if you’re worried about getting hot and heavy with a not-so-healthy mate, be sure to stop by your local movie theater or motel: city law requires that they have coin-op condom vending machines.