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Editorial: UCLA must be transparent about antisemitic former dentistry student

By Editorial Board

Feb. 28, 2023 8:18 p.m.

Editor’s note: Editorials do not represent the views of the Daily Bruin as a whole. The board encourages readers to respond to our editorials at dailybruin.com/submit.

UCLA continues to put lives in danger with its inadequate communication.

On Feb. 15 and 16, two more shootings took place. This time, authorities charged a former UCLA dentistry student with pulling the trigger.

Less than five miles away from UCLA’s campus, Jaime Tran allegedly shot and injured two Jewish individuals in Los Angeles’ Pico-Robertson district. Arrested in Cathedral City, he was charged with two federal counts of committing hate crimes.

According to the criminal complaint, Tran intentionally targeted the two men outside synagogues after noticing their yarmulkes.

Prior to that, between August and November, Tran sent a former classmate multiple antisemitic text messages. Later in November and December, Tran sent similar messages in a mass email to former dentistry classmates.

The Jewish community has been left feeling unsettled by these shootings – but this, unfortunately, is nothing new.

The horrific acts in the past month are a reflection of a larger issue of antisemitism in LA and across the nation. Out of more than 1,000 religion-influenced incidents that were reported to the FBI in 2021, 31.9% were anti-Jewish cases – the largest category in the report.

[Related: Editorial: California must ensure safety from gun violence amid recent state mass shootings]

While Tran’s shootings of Jewish individuals should never have happened to begin with, UCLA could possibly shoulder some of the blame.

Just over a year ago, former philosophy lecturer Matthew Harris terrorized UCLA with mass shooting threats. The university created a threat response task force in the aftermath, but its recommendations for online monitoring and a new reporting website did not stop these shootings.

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

UCLA administration rightly acknowledged these most recent shootings but chose not to communicate any details about the suspect’s UCLA involvement.

Tran expressed hostility to specific UCLA dentistry alumni. In July, police caught him with a loaded handgun on the Cal State Long Beach campus. It’s entirely possible that he could have attacked UCLA’s campus.

But these shootings shouldn’t have happened anywhere.

We are left with more questions than answers. The editorial board hopes that UCLA will be transparent with the truth.

UCLA has yet to publicly respond to allegations from classmates that the School of Dentistry expelled Tran in 2018 or if such an expulsion occurred because he was antisemitic.

Nor has our institution revealed if it knew about Tran’s mass emails or, most importantly, if the university reported those emails to authorities at any point.

Four years after his time at UCLA, it seems likely that administrators could have known that Tran was continuing to harass and threaten Jewish classmates. Tran should never have had that gun to begin with.

With a seemingly consistent lack of transparency, UCLA fails to keep its community informed in good faith and safe from harm. The university must clarify what its policies are to notify individuals of potential threats.

There is little point in creating a threat response task force if it won’t properly respond to threats.

 

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