On Dec. 3, an overheated wire stemming from an electrical outlet caused smoke in the Public Affairs Center (PAC) Laboratory. Around ten students were in the laboratory at the time, and were evacuated by the University’s Public Safety officers. The lab is currently open, after being closed for one day, with only the single computer stall currently closed. The University’s Information Technology Services (ITS) is currently working on ensuring the lab, and other University labs, are safe for students.

The spark and smoke in question started when student Anna Lu ’17 attempted to plug her computer charger into an outlet underneath the desk. Lu explained that due to a shadow over the plug from the desk above it, she couldn’t see the outlet clearly enough to discern where to insert the plug.

“My left hand got caught in between the uninsulated wire and the plug system,” said Lu . “When the plug got caught in the uninsulated wire when I was charging it, that’s when it sparked. The uninsulated wire touched the carpet, and that’s when it caught fire.”

Officers from the University’s Public Safety staff arrived on the scene, and soon an ambulance and fire trucks were called to the site. Lu then went to a hospital for assessment of her physical condition after getting shocked by the plug.

Lu noted that because she does not have the University health insurance, it was not possible for her to go to the Middlesex Hospital for a health assessment. She instead went to the Yale-New Haven Hospital, where she received exams to prevent muscle atrophy within her hand from the electrical burn of the wire. Lu is concerned, however, about the cost of the hospital visit.

“I don’t know if my insurance can cover that bill,” Lu said.

Lu notes that the uninsulated wire illustrates serious problems within the structure of the University.

“What are the moral and ethical backings behind an uninsulated wire around the entire lab?” Lu asks.

Likewise, Lu asks how this incident ties into other aspects of the University’s safety procedures.

“As a student at Wesleyan, as a student of color, an underrepresented minority within a STEM field, I am unaware of [the University’s] safety precautions here, as an educational institution,” said Lu.“It’s not safe for students, of any color, to be in a lab where there are uninsulated wires. Period.”

Director of Public Safety Scott Rohde, however, notes that he believes the event may not have been a fire involving an uninsulated wire so much as an electrical cable disturbed by Lu’s plug. He suggests that Lu was trying to plug her cable into an outlet that already had a device in it, and that the security cables there to prevent students from stealing the computers may have caused overheating.

“I wasn’t there,” Rohde said. “I did look at the picture; it looks like the most likely culprit was an electrical cable that probably came in contact when the student was plugging her device into an outlet there and may have created some heat and smoke. I don’t think there was any specific fire damage at all.”

Vice President for Information Technology & Chief Information Officer Dave Baird also explained that the outlets are not meant to be used for students’ personal devices.

“The lab that this occurred in is one where all of the available outlets are used by existing computers and monitors,” Baird said. “So we always advise faculty and students, ‘please don’t unplug any of the things that are in there because that creates work for us, because they’re often not plugged back in.’ Because we know that outlets are a premium there and students are doing this, we had planned maintenance for the winter to actually have some power strips…because the other thing is that nobody wants to crawl under a desk and unplug something. So we’re going to try to make it convenient for students to have some extra outlets to plug into.”

Baird went on to explain the danger behind adjusting or removing these plugs.

“It is kinda dangerous to plug and unplug things when there are security cables, for example, that keep the monitors and the computers from being taken,” he explained. “I believe it is actually one of those security cables that may have contacted the student’s plug when they were plugging it back in….It wouldn’t happen if the thing hadn’t been disturbed.”

Deputy CIO of ITS Karen Warren also notes that ITS will be further assessing the situation.

“I have staff going over there this afternoon and checking it out,” Warren said. “They’re just going to do a review and make sure that all [hanging cables] are up, tied off, or whatever the case may be. We’re going to review any other labs, and we’re not aware of any situation, just as a standard practice.”

Despite the fact that Baird does not consider the event to have involved actual flames, and rather believes it was smoke and overheating, he explained that it is still standard procedure to ensure a fire truck is present after any situation involving smoke or fire.

“We always err on the side of caution, so whenever there’s an electrical issue, we have to determine the extent of it, so the fire department would always respond when requested,” he said.

He also noted Public Safety’s role in fire response.

“I think that emergency preparedness is a big part of what Public Safety does, that includes fire response,” Baird said. “Any time there’s a report of fire we always involve the fire department because that’s not our specialty, of course.”

Lu hopes that this event will help spark a change in the University’s use of funds regarding the safety of students, particularly students of color and underrepresented minorities. As she notes, the majority of the students in the lab at the time of the event were students of color and international students, and she hopes that in the future, the safety of these students will be prioritized.

“I want the university to notice their safety issues, and readjust their funds,” Lu said.

Baird, along with Warren, believes the event was a rare occurrence.

“It seems like kind of a freak incident,” Baird said. “To the best of my knowledge, this hasn’t happened before.”

  • Kory Ahn

    Before I say anything else, I’d like to mention that I was an Asian American student who studied Biochemistry at Wesleyan. I understand that students at Wes want to improve the academic experience for minorities and accessibility of resources and inclusiveness and diversity more than anything because I was part of that ideal as well. Therefore I understand Ms. Lu’s frustration to a degree.

    During my sophomore year, on an extremely stormy evening I decided to head out to dinner with one of my friends. As soon as I left my housing, a massive tree branch about 3/4 my height and 6-10 inches thick broke off and slammed into my back, bruising me heavily and causing me to slam into the ground. I had the wind completely knocked out of me and I was unable to get up and walk for several minutes from the pain. I limped back into my housing and had back pain for one week afterwards. Thankfully I didn’t have any broken bones but it did have an impact on my ability to focus or even do basic tasks like walking and sitting (it felt like it tore a muscle). In essence, I was in a similar situation as Ms. Lu but I realized after calling Public Safety and maintenance about the environmental hazards and receiving a “Sorry, not much we can do about it” answer, the reality was that s*** happens and we can’t just go around seeking someone or something to blame, especially for mistakes that we make. This experience taught me to be more cautious during harsh weather and to look after my body with care.

    I’m thankful that Ms Lu was not gravely injured in her ordeal, but as a STEM major with experience in handling many common laboratory hazards I can say for certain that she should have had greater care in dealing with the situation given the unfortunate circumstances. Oftentimes we’re so used to the devices around us that we take the security measures implemented into those devices for granted. An outlet may not carry a high voltage (110-220 V for most household applications) but it’s the amperage and your grounding that can mean the difference between a small burn and total paralysis. If my understanding of the situation is correct, it appears that Ms Lu was completely in the blind in searching for the socket, which is dangerous and unnecessary and not worth the potential risk. Nobody would be okay with handling hydrochloric acid blindly even if they were wearing gloves and goggles. Nobody would be okay with jaywalking across a busy 4 lane road in the middle of the night. Likewise for electrical sockets. What if Ms Lu, being made of water 70% by weight, had been touching another metal object with her other hand and a huge current had passed through her heart? I mean, it seems more reasonable to attribute the consequences to something that could’ve been prevented on Ms Lu’s part (let’s face it, there is no way that ITS is going to be able to keep track of every single socket and plug on campus 24/7 while students use them daily, and don’t forget that a lot of minority students work for ITS) rather than the gender/racial/minority related inequalities that exist in society today.

    It’s very tempting to let the emotions first overwhelm our critical thought processes in the moment. I was frustrated and looking for something that needed fixing/changing immediately after I was struck by the branch. But we must be careful to not conflate the core issues of society with something that we ourselves could’ve prevented with a little care. Wesleyan is actually one of the most liberal campuses in the entire country and is doing everything possible to provide for students of color. In society, women are currently outnumbering men in the STEM fields in a 2-to-1 ratio. Progress is being made. I don’t quite think blaming white people (which by the way seems narrow-minded, stereotyping, and racist to assume that all people of a certain color are of a certain economic background and privilege, and to assume that all white people are racist) is the solution for improving electrical socket safety. If a white student was shocked in the same situation, would you also have stood up for their rights? I mean, we talk about being careful of inherent biases and stereotyping but literally in my four years at Wesleyan, I have heard POC stereotype white people at a 10x higher rate than the other way around. The only thing rich here is the irony.

    In conclusion, let’s try to seek ways to be the change in our society rather than seeking reparations and scapegoats. If we keep going by this faulty logic of thinking that the whole world is “out to get us,” or that we are always victims of injustices and are never in the wrong, no amount of monetary funding or electrical socket safety improvements will satisfy us in their quest for diversity and inclusiveness. It is good to highlight the injustices in our society and I implore Wes students to continue doing so, but at the same time, I would also implore the very same students to suggest and become the positive changes they seek. I implore students to think beyond just themselves and their own situations and remember the great privilege they have of being able to attend an institution ranked #9 on Forbes’ list of best schools in the nation. I implore students to not let things affect them personally and to not let their emotions overwhelm their sense of rationale.

    After living in the “real world” for less than two years I can honestly say that no one will care if you feel “marginalized” or “traumatized” or “unsafe” or “triggered,” and that many students who are so used to the safety and comfort of being given housing, education, and food will be in for quite a shock when they realize that the real world does not care about you. To the real world, you are just another expendable unit, and in order to sell yourself you must first prove your strength, value, endurance, integrity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills, not white-people blaming skills. A hiring manager is more likely to hear “After the situation I quickly adapted and enacted precautionary safety measures for the benefit of my coworkers and myself” favorably, rather than “I was the unfortunate victim of white supremacist policies of the higher-ups which resulted in them neglecting to provide safe outlets for my use.” It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to see which one leads to progress.

  • Ralphiec88

    There are really two issues here. First, this incident may have identified a genuine safety issue in the lab where the computer security cables can slip down and short across the prongs of a plug. This needs to be investigated and addressed. Second, Ms Lu has stated that she will be running for WSA, and provided ample evidence that if elected she will insist on painting even the most neutral situation as an issue of color and class, and attack those with even mildly contradictory viewpoints with SJW doubletalk and implications of racism.

  • DavidL

    ~At first I thought this article was satire, but on reflection, it seems more like a cry for help.

  • Confused and Crazed

    As an Asian-American student at another university studying in a STEM field and also a facilitator for a social justice education program, I am confused by (1) why this article was published with this perspective and (2) what being Asian-American has to do with being electrocuted.

    • Anna Lu

      Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.” Bill Nye
      I appreciate your constructive criticism, but I hope you realize the paradox in your inability to reveal who you are but still criticize me in my identity, my ability to bring forth issues in a nonlinear way of understanding it to you and others because you not talking to me or have engaged with me in person; but that is okay. This world we live in is not a straight forwardI/backward historical timeline; that is the way we are taught to PERCIEVE IT. I am a History of Science and Technology concentration and a Neuroscience (Biology) Science concentration within the Science in Society major, and I also hold a minor in the College of East Asian Studies. I have failed before in different contexts and I will not let these other failures get in the way of what I am doing for I will be completing my major and minor this semester. Technology has, however, failed you in expressing your full autonomy in being able to fully engage in an intellectual conversation with me on my race because you chose to remain anonymous. We are allowed to remain anonymous on this platform, so it’s okay. Please do feel free to reach out to me in person for I’m pretty active on campus and I’m still going to all of my classes and taking all of my finals, I AM NO DIFFERENT FROM ANY OTHER STUDENT HERE BESIDES THAT I LOOK ASIAN. We’re all stressed and for the sake of the discourse, I am more stressed than any other student here because I have to prove myself to you and others that my point is accurate and clear. Trust me, I’ve also been to CAPS too, and I’ve also worked with them through the We Speak We Stand Orientation Platforms for the last 2 years. So for all of you who think I am panicking and attacking the school, or you (Ms. Lancelot) I am not. Thank you

    • Anna Lu

      Asian American studies at Wesleyan is being defunded and there is a heavy push back for the defunding of this Program by the head of the American Studies Department, Professor Kauanui. She is native Hawaiian and she has all the right to lead the push back, however, Hawaii is the state to majority Asian Americans. When Asian Americans such as myself go to her for guidance and assistance in courses and future PhD Programs in Hawaii, she was very helpful. Now I want to lead the social activism on campus because I am a Science in Society Major, taking 4 SISP courses (3 are in American Studies [Asian American History, Techno-Orientalism, and Race and Medicine in America]), and I am one of the leading members of the SISP Major’s Committee that works closely with the professors and students within the Major. So I will try to expand not only the Undergraduate Program of SISP to include an American Studies concentration (along with the 2 types of Philosophy, History, Religion, Feminist Studies, etc..) but also petition for a SISP 5th Year Master’s at Wesleyan because all 5th Years at Wesleyan are free. Wesleyan already has the hard sciences as a master’s program- but the master’s program within the humanities and arts are lacking and its only with the CEAS Musicology Departments in the MA Program at Wes. Thus, I will run for the WSA and look forward to create a bigger change in the University! Thanks.

      • accuracy

        To be clear, there is no effort to defund Asian American studies.

  • Mulan

    While I think you are coming from a good place, I think you need to articulate your points with more coherence. You are conflating multiple ideas with a singular, unrelated experience.

    The outlet did not burn you because you are Asian-American. You were simply there at the wrong time. The burn is circumstantial.

    Yes, the conversation about Asian-American identity and politics is necessary. However, you cannot expect that this kind of tantrum will actually ignite real action. Your reaction on this forum is indicative that you are unclear and unfocused in your agenda. You cannot react to criticism with capital letters, especially if it makes no sense.

    You are not a martyr for Asian-Americans. If anything, you are offending those who are trying to create actual and literal social momentum. You are simply a student with singed fingers.

    • Sir Nigel Eton-Hogg

      Bingo.

    • Anna Lu

      I plan on running for WSA so please before you say it is “just singed fingers” look into the Neurological damages of all types of an electrical burn. Be a Science in Society Major before you tell me how to articulate my own autonomy and the way I raise awareness. You can give me constructive criticism but don’t tell me what to do especially when you don’t know what happened and don’t live in my shoes. Thank you :) Still love you though.

  • Fellow SOC

    As a fellow student of color who has been very active in identifying ways to make this university a more safe and inclusive space for SOC. I am extremely sorry that this occurred and am very glad that you were not injured severely. Unfortunately, I have to disagree that this event was a race issue at all. In fact, I truly believe that this argument weakens the overall argument that this place is unsafe for SOC. It has been noted that these outlets were not to be used for personal usage and these outlets were not specifically designated for use “only by SOC”. Though it’s unfortunate that you as a fellow SOC fell victim to a potentially hazardous electrical setup, this event has nothing to do with the university unfairly treating SOC.

    • Anna Lu

      Thank you for your efforts in supporting me but the Argus did not articulate this well and people are not reading into and actively choosing not to read into this article the right way. I mention in my interview why I bring up my non sequiturs in accordance to the situation that had happened, BUT IT ONLY GETS MENTIONED IN THE LAST COUPLE OF PARAGRAPHS. “Lu hopes that this event will help spark a change in the University’s use of funds regarding the safety of students, particularly students of color and underrepresented minorities. As she notes, the majority of the students in the lab AT THE TIME OF THE EVENT were students of color and international students, and she hopes that in the future, the safety of these students will be prioritized.” Therefore it makes my point valid but the ARGUS didn’t articulate it well.

      • fellow poc activist

        I believe that there are many instances in which the University fails to protect Students of Color and that is a fight to be had. However, I think the motivation for this fight should not be based from your experience being electrocuted. As the fellow SOC has posted above, the outlet did not electrocute you because of your race, nor is that room or lab designed for those of lower income/POC people. Actually the lab is housed for one of the more affluent majors. Put another way, that outlet had an equal chance of sparking someone who was a white affluent straight male, but it so unfortunately hurt you. For this I am very sorry, but I stand by the point that this particular instance is not a race issue, and not that the issue of POC marginalization doesn’t exist.

        If you want to fight this fight, I say go forth, but please use another example that really portrays the marginalization of the POC community and mis-funding. Otherwise, it just presents a mockery of the hard work that is currently being done.

  • Matt Renez

    “Lu hopes that this event will help spark a change in the University’s use of funds” nice pun guys

    • Anna Lu

      I actually told them to do that.

  • Sir Nigel Eton-Hogg

    “As a student at Wesleyan, as a student of color, an underrepresented minority within a STEM field, I am unaware of [the University’s] safety precautions here, as an educational institution,”

    This was a very unfortunate situation, an accident. The most important thing is that no students were seriously injured.

    Maybe I’m just daft, but what exactly does the gender/ethnicity/minority status/field of study have to do with this? Are we literally just inserting that as a complete non sequitur into every situation–regardless of relevance? Can someone honestly tell me why that was necessary?

    • Anna Lu

      Because the Privatized institution such as Wesleyan and all the fortune 500 Companies are owned my white people. The fact that the fire happened at the ECONOMICS department, which is one of the most WHITEST among students within the major and the most popular majors here at Wesleyan, speaks mountains to how American- Anglosaxon based, Racist culture has really influenced our so “Die-verse” University.

      • Anna Lu

        and NO STUDENT REGARDLESS OF COLOR SHOULD SACRIFICE AND JEOPARDIZE THEIR SAFETY TO WORK IN ONE OF THE MOST POPULAR COMPUTER LABS ON CAMPUS, IN THE MOST POPULAR BUILDING- PUBLIC AFFAIRS BUILDING.

      • Anyone could have been working in that computer lab… any student of any color… how did the white economics department cause you to be hurt? Any white student working there could have had to endure the same thing, it was actually more likely that a white student would be hurt in a space in their predominantly white department. It was a terrible thing to happen, but to say race played into this is illogical…outlets can literally not tell who is plugging their laptops into them.

      • real aluwho

        WHY IS SOMEONE POSTING AS ME.

      • Lady Lancelot

        Ze is not posing as you… the person is using an anon “cyborg” identity called “…”

      • Anna Lu

        I have and will stop in this conversation because it is meaningless to the people who don’t even read or care for the Argus on the social media platforms.

      • Lady Lancelot

        It doesn’t seem like you care to “stop” engaging in this discussion. It was an unfortunate accident, and I’m really sorry it happened to you. Also, your reply to my comment made no sense whatsoever. I read the article and I also read the comments, so I’m not really sure what the point you’re trying to make is…? You should work on clarity in your writing and also double check for spelling errors if you actually care about making a point.

      • Anna Lu

        The way you were criticizing me for my lack of English ability is exactly the demonizing manner in which you and others have marginalized me and other student bodies of color, but it’s okay (no it’s not). You don’t know my narrative, and I don’t need your support because I know others will not ostracize me. You just need to understand how you are attacking me on this platform is A REFLECTION ON YOU , and rather not to my face is also to your disadvantage. Criticizing me for my lack of English language ability is only a reflection of you. I am a Senior at Wesleyan, and I’ve succeeded this far, and I plan on going way farther.

      • Anna Lu

        Now I’m done here.

      • Lady Lancelot

        I wasn’t criticizing your English speaking ability, I was merely trying to give a helpful tip since you do have some good points, but they can be confusing. I wish you the best in your future endeavors.

      • Anna Lu

        “Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.” Bill Nye
        I appreciate your constructive criticism, but I hope you realize the paradox in your inability to reveal who you are but still criticize me in my identity, my ability to bring forth issues in a nonlinear way of understanding it to you and others because you not talking to me or have engaged with me in person; but that is okay. This world we live in is not a straight forwardI/backward historical timeline; that is the way we are taught to PERCIEVE IT. I am a History of Science and Technology concentration and a Neuroscience (Biology) Science concentration within the Science in Society major, and I also hold a minor in the College of East Asian Studies. I have failed before in different contexts and I will not let these other failures get in the way of what I am doing for I will be completing my major and minor this semester. Technology has, however, failed you in expressing your full autonomy in being able to fully engage in an intellectual conversation with me on my race because you chose to remain anonymous. We are allowed to remain anonymous on this platform, so it’s okay. Please do feel free to reach out to me in person for I’m pretty active on campus and I’m still going to all of my classes and taking all of my finals, I AM NO DIFFERENT FROM ANY OTHER STUDENT HERE BESIDES THAT I LOOK ASIAN. We’re all stressed and for the sake of the discourse, I am more stressed than any other student here because I have to prove myself to you and others that my point is accurate and clear. Trust me, I’ve also been to CAPS too, and I’ve also worked with them through the We Speak We Stand Orientation Platforms for the last 2 years. So for all of you who think I am panicking and attacking the school, or you (Ms. Lancelot) I am not. Thank you

      • Anna Lu

        you’re despicable for posing as me

    • Anna Lu

      I’d love to engage in a personal, face to face conversation with you about the issues surrounding privatized institutions. The fact of the matter is the school should be honored I am not pressing legal charges, and the fact that someone has gone to the extent as to taking my anonymous cyborg identity and posting things under my name is shameful. Please reconsider your thoughts and actions. The University has still not assumed the responsibility in protecting their students but they are taking action, and I am proud to have started at least AN AWARENESS AND MOVEMENT, rather than engage in petty anonymous discourse on social media platforms.

      • Sir Nigel Eton-Hogg

        I’m genuinely happy that you were not seriously hurt. I have no reason and no desire to see anyone get hurt.

        You actually didn’t address my one question–why was it necessary to include your race/gender/minority status/major in that statement I quoted? What do those qualifiers add to the story? I honestly do not understand.

      • Anna Lu

        I am not here to patronize you by any means but also understand that I am a Science in Society Major, I study the structures and systems that have made our world so successful as well as deteriorate it. I also hold the Neuroscience and Behavior (Biology) Science track within the SISP Major, and History of Science and Technology Concentration within the Major- The point goes back to PRIVILEGE and ALL students of color, as an underrepresented minority within a STEM fields, the safety of our computer labs is dire.

        I also have personally taken a QAC course and I’ve taken a course in my Quantitative Analysis Center: This course called Data Analysis required me to learn a new computer language, R. Using the national database provided (NESARC), I was able to gather my variables and ultimately test my research question: Is there a positive correlation between having panic attacks and the use of an illicit substance; does use Cannabis/Cocaine affect having a panic attack even more? The use of herbal treatment as a form of psychiatric treatment has always been a topic of contestation within the Asian culture and can shine as a positive and adverse effect on Asian Cultures. Which is why the safety of the labs is brought up – tying it all back together, when the American studies department doesn’t want to fund an Asian American Studies course, and the structures of the institution criminalize and look down on certain aspects of study- and even when the privatized institution such as Wesleyan fund most of the hard science courses that most students have taken are taught by white professors, it goes to show that Privilege is the issue and that all the fortune 500 Companies are owned my white people, and all students of color, and underrepresented minority groups are not protected by the computer labs which they access on a daily basis.

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