- See also Wikipedia's article about "Ken Hechtman".
Ken Hechtman was a freshman at Columbia from 1986 to 1987, during which time he became infamous for exploring Columbia's tunnels and generally wreaking havoc. He was effectively expelled in 1987 for keeping uranium-238 he found in the basement of Pupin in his dorm room.
Leader of ADHOC
Hechtman is known, among other things, for being the leader of the Allied Destructive Hackers Of Columbia (ADHOC), a group which wrought havoc on campus infrastructure, particularly the tunnels. He and fellow ADHOC member Jeff Bankoff conducted amateur chemistry experiments, creating hallucinagens and, perhaps, explosive devices in their rooms. The group also grafittied the tunnels, broke toilet stalls, stole papers, and blacked out buildings.
Hechtman stole Uranium-238 from Pupin Hall, along with other chemicals, notably pure caffeine, from Havemeyer Hall. He hid the uranium in his room and was ratted out by the roommate, causing quite a commotion for a week. As a result, Hechtman was suspended for a year and expelled from campus housing. His friends within ADHOC quickly deserted him. He dropped out after deciding that returning to campus as a pariah wasn't such a good idea.
This incident caused Columbia to realize how porous its infrastructure really was, and to the chagrin of tunnelers, closed off a number of routes. The most obvious direct result of the event was the cinder block wall and fences that block off Pupin 1 from the tunnels. This campus-wide crackdown on the tunnels was the most severe since the 1968 protests.
Of his experiments with uranium, Hechtman said that he wanted to "possibly expose plant seeds to it under a radiation shield and plant them and get weird mutation". Alternatively, The Blue and White has theorized that he actually stolen the uranium to test the radioactivity of caffeine he had ingested from the same Pupin storage area.
When Columbia did a radiation scan of his room, though, the only elevated source of radiation came from his roommate's alarm clock.
Hechtman is also rumored to have caused a campus blackout, to have capsized a Columbia crew scull by hitting a Circle Line ship, and to have stolen all Columbia freshmen's SAT scores. Also, in 1986, Hechtman climbed to the top of the Low Library dome. He claims to be the first to have done so.
Activities since expulsion
After leaving Columbia, Hectman was homeless for a while. He has been an anarchist squatter on the Lower East Side, broke into the Yucca Mountain reservation in Nevada, and was present at the execution of Timothy McVeigh. After some time, he got a job as a journalist. He is said to have broken into Area 51 to visit the testing fields and broken into many other places. In 2001, he made the news again after he was captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan while reporting for a Canadian newspaper, but he was later freed. Hechtman later moved on to a more conventional life as a computer science student at McGill University in Canada.