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Editorial: UCLA puts lives in danger through failure to communicate timely amid threats

By Editorial Board

Feb. 1, 2022 12:52 a.m.

Correction: The original version of this article stated that Matthew Harris sent emails to faculty Monday afternoon. In fact, it is unclear when Harris first sent the emails to faculty Monday.

This post was updated Feb. 2 at 12:01 p.m.

Editor’s note: Editorials are intended to serve as the jumping-off point, not the conclusion, to discussion. As part of the Daily Bruin’s commitment to its readers, the board hopes to present a responsible and clear analysis of relevant events and news items affecting the lives of those we serve, but our editorials are not representative of the Daily Bruin’s views on issues as a whole. We encourage all readers to reach out to our board members and to respond to our editorials.

Students, staff and faculty at UCLA are under serious threat. 

While that threat remains, the university must take any and all precautions to keep community members safe. 

Anything less may cost lives.

Matthew Harris, a former lecturer in the philosophy department, sent faculty and students an 800-page manifesto containing threats against department members and a link to a video titled “UCLA Philosophy (Mass Shooting)” Monday, according to UCLA philosophy department emails. He has released hundreds of disturbing videos in the last few days on YouTube.

Harris’ concerning behavior is not new. While teaching undergraduates, Harris, who was placed on leave in the spring, expressed erratic behavior and posted worrying activity online. Notably, he was suspected of sending pornography to a previous student. 

After these threats and problematic actions toward UCLA community members, it is reasonable to expect the university to quickly provide students some semblance of safety or initiative.

Instead, UCLA announced hours after the initial news broke that classes will be online Tuesday. Some professors even neglected to change teaching plans before the announcement, expecting students to carry on without concern.

Make no mistake: This is a legitimate threat to campus. It is impossible to justify in-person activities when the risk of a mass shooting exists.

We appreciate administrators’ decision to cancel in-person classes but urge them to keep the Bruin community updated of any developments. Students should not have to scour the internet for information on what is or isn’t safe during an emergency.

It’s not often that someone threatens to cause harm on such a massive scale – but when it happens, the university must rise to the occasion. 

UCLA has done anything but. 

It was only after 10 p.m. that Administrative Vice Chancellor Michael Beck shared a video message on the Undergraduate Students Association Council president’s Instagram page, reiterating information the university shared earlier in the evening. 

Moreover, BruinAlert – the university’s primary means of communicating emergencies and threats to campus – did not notify community members until around 12 a.m. Tuesday. 

The uncertainty of the situation would understandably frighten anyone. However, not everyone appeared to take it as seriously as they should. 

Sociology M176: “Sociology of Mass Communication” in Dodd Hall, where the philosophy department is housed, was initially planning to remain in person after the threat was circulated. The professor’s justification was that the lecture hall’s doors have efficient locks and that there has never been a reported case of a mass shooter breaking through locked doors. He added that the students can download BruinAlert for updates. 

This reasoning makes no sense. Even though doors with locks are part of the common classroom, a shooter can easily breach the barrier by shooting through walls or plowing through windows. The safety of students should not be dependent on the trust of a single lock.

Tonight, we saw firsthand how long it took UCLA to decide whether it should be safe or sorry. 

Next time, we may not have that luxury.

If students want to share information they feel is important to UCPD, they should contact its nonemergency line at 310-825-1491. If students are under immediate threat, they should call 911. 

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