Professor was brains behind toilet prank EDUCATION: Two small explosions disrupted May 28 finals at Cal State Fullerton

The Orange County Register

North County News

Orange County Register
14 July 1993: b01.

It had “student prank” written all over it, but the booby-trapping of toilet seats that disrupted finals for 4,000 California State University, Fullerton, students was the work of a chemistry professor.

Campus police said Tuesday that Assistant Professor Wayne Taylor, 44, was responsible for the May 28 prank, which led to small explosions in two campus restrooms.

Police said Taylor smeared an explosive chemical onto the bottoms of some toilet seats in McCarthy Hall in an attempt to get back at a group of seniors who had filled professors’ offices with balloons and baby wading pools.

The goal was simply to create a loud bang when the toilet seats dropped into position. But a custodian’s early morning attempt to wash away the substance released fumes that sent four campus employees to the hospital, caused the building to be evacuated, and brought police, fire, bomb squad and hazardous-material personnel rushing to the scene.

The chemical, nitrogen tri-iodide – a red-orange mixture of ammonia and iodine – is highly explosive on contact, like TNT. Experts said anyone sitting on the toilets could have been badly injured, if not killed.

Campus Police Chief Bill Huffman said his department has determined that Taylor had no criminal intent and should not face criminal charges.

But university officials say Taylor, who has taught at the university since 1989 and does not have tenure, could be reprimanded or fired.

Taylor said Tuesday that his lawyer told him not to talk about the prank until after the disciplinary process is complete.

“I was pulling a prank, but I’d rather not tell you more than that,” he said.

And how does he feel now?

“I’m concerned about the future,” he said.

Copyright Orange County Register Jul 14, 1993