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Harvard Yard Reopened to the Public for First Time in 6 Weeks

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Harvard Yard reopened to members of the public on Wednesday, the first time tourists were allowed to enter the space since the University restricted access to non-Harvard affiliates in late April, ahead of the pro-Palestine encampment.

The University restricted access to the Yard on April 21, which remained indefinitely closed to the public for nearly a month after the 20-day encampment ended in mid-May as Harvard officials sought to prevent disruptions to Commencement and Alumni Day ceremonies.

The Yard, the iconic center of Harvard’s campus, has long been a major tourist destination of the Boston area, receiving more than a million visitors each year. Its closure left the University’s many visitors peering through locked gates and its popular tours rerouted to around the perimeter.

Harvard spokesperson Jason A. Newton confirmed in a statement that access to the Yard is no longer restricted, though he wrote that “enhanced security measures will remain in place for the foreseeable future.”

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“The safety and security of the Harvard community is a top priority, and we will continue to evaluate the overall situation and adjust our measures accordingly,” he added.

Newton declined to comment on which additional precautions will remain in place, citing a University policy against commenting on safety measures.

Signs posted around the Yard still currently say the area is closed to the public, but Newton wrote that they will be updated to reflect the changes.

The University’s decision to close the Yard impacted businesses that depend on Harvard tours for income, like Harvard Student Agencies, which operates thousands of tours per year through its Trademark Tours company.

Trademark Tours Managing Director Tyler S. Young ’26 said the closure substantially affected the guides’ tips because missing one of the University’s main attractions left clients unhappy, while depressing demand in the first place.

The group saw a drop in revenue, daily refund requests from tour customers, and the cancellation of a quarter of their private bookings during the period, according to Young.

“The biggest hit that HSA as a whole experienced was just a general decline in Harvard tourism throughout April and May,” Young said. “People at some point began to see ahead of time what was going on in Harvard Square — could be safety concerns or otherwise — chose to avoid it.”

“It’s a relief,” Young said of the reopening. “Summer is extremely busy for us and when the weather is nice, people tip pretty well.”

Though the Yard was restricted during Harvard’s annual Alumni Day ceremony last week, at least one person without any Harvard affiliation — animal rights activist Brittany A. Drake — was able to enter the Yard and pour glitter on interim Harvard President Alan M. Garber ’76 during his speech.

Drake was charged with trespassing in addition to three felony charges on Monday.

For the lucky tourists who visited Harvard Yard Wednesday and narrowly avoided the closure, open gates were a welcome surprise.

By Wednesday evening, tourists visiting from all over the world — including Bolivia, Canada, India, Ireland, and Spain — had already returned to enjoy the reopening. Families stopped for photos in front of Widener Library and tours resumed in front of major landmarks like the John Harvard statue.

Many said they were not aware the Yard had been closed before Wednesday, or why it had been closed at all.

Eliza Miller, a shift supervisor at JP Licks, said the store had received a spike in foot traffic just from the ranks of confused tourists.

“People come in all the time and they say, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’” Miller said.

One pair of visitors on Wednesday, Ariana Vargas and Antonio Hurtado, first came to Harvard Yard two years ago. They found they loved its “chill” atmosphere, but when they came back on Tuesday, they were surprised to find they couldn’t enter.

They were pleased to find the gates open Wednesday.

“I guess we’re lucky that we got in,” Vargas said.

—Staff writer Jack R. Trapanick contributed reporting.

—Staff writer Cam E. Kettles can be reached at cam.kettles@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @cam_kettles or on Threads @camkettles.

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