On Monday night, Princeton’s Frist Campus Center was the scene of an anthrax scare. But chances are the culprit was sugar from a nearby cafeteria.
Shortly after 8 p.m., a graduate student was checking his e-mail on a Frist computer when he noticed white powder on the keyboard. A hazardous materials team from Trenton sanitized the area and the floor reopened shortly after 11 p.m. A state laboratory is currently testing the powder and will have results later this week.
An announcement on the Princeton Web site says “precautions were taken immediately and effectively” and that there is no need for testing of anyone unless the powder turns out to be a dangerous biological agent.
When public safety officials arrived, they closed the area around the computer and shut down the ventilation system. Officials told the student to wash his clothes and watch for flu-like symptoms.
Student reactions in the days following the scare have differed. A lack of knowledge about the events has led to rumors on campus.
“I heard it was a pixy stick,” Josh Younger ’04 said.
Dave Sillers ’04 said he heard a rumor that someone had tasted the powder and said it was sugar. He said students have not heard much from the administration and that most Princetonians are not worried about the incident.
“People here are more or less laughing it off,” Sillers said. “There’s been no panic from what I have seen.”
Other students think the problem merits the attention it has been given. Liz Lapetina ’02 said Princeton is taking the incident very seriously.
“I feel like because the eating area is so close to the computers, it was probably sugar,” Lapetina said. “But the student acted appropriately, especially in light of where our school is situated.”
Lapetina said Princeton is close to the Hamilton mail facility, where postal workers are believed to have contracted pulmonary anthrax.
She said an e-mail from the administration with helpful information might have avoided student confusion.
“I think people would feel more up to date if they had received an e-mail acknowledging the problem,” Lapetina said.