UC Davis Chemistry Magic Show Embarrassment: Slurs yes, Safety no

Last year I went to the Chemistry Magic Show at Picnic Day since people made such a big deal out of it. I was really unimpressed. The stunts were largely things I had done before or at least seen before, often in a better setting.

There’s a limit to what can be done indoors. Sadly the Chemistry Club and their faculty advisors went past this limit. In a segment where they took torches to hydrogen-filled ballons, one of the light covers from the ceiling was knocked loose. Chemistry 194 has a high ceiling with large light covers, so the cover fell quite a distance before striking several audience members. What did the Chemistry Club then do? They lit up another balloon! They chose to do something they had just demonstrated was not safe for the venue. Lab safety is of supreme importance and it was disappointing and embarrassing to see the Chemistry Club behave in such a way.

Even worse, I heard the faculty advisors telling one of the victims after the show (they didn’t check on all of them right after the incident, only the victims who were related to club members) that they would warn people not to sit in the front row for the next show. I was expecting to hear that they wouldn’t be doing it again! These people are faculty!

I was also disappointed that one of the ‘jokes’ the Chemistry Club used involved a racial slur.  Not cool. The one they used doesn’t carry with it nearly as much troubling history as other slurs, but it undermines calling out the worse ones and alienates potential allies. I didn’t get the names of the offending students as they were all going by (sometimes mispronounced) names of famous scientists.

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