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UCLA to Review University's Response to Threats from Ex-Lecturer

Federal prosecutors in Denver last week charged Matthew Christopher Harris, 31, a former postdoctoral fellow, with transmitting threats across state lines.

Al Seib | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

A week after a former UCLA lecturer allegedly made threats against students and faculty  -- prompting a one-day halt to in-person instruction on the Westwood campus -- UCLA Chancellor Gene Block today called for the creation of a task force to conduct a comprehensive review of the university's emergency protocols for potential threats.

“UCLA is committed to protecting our community against potential threats,” Block said. “We are grateful that the collaborative efforts among UCPD and other law enforcement agencies led to last week's apprehension in Colorado of an individual who threatened some members of the UCLA community. 

“We are also committed to constantly improving our protocols for responding to these emergencies and taking the opportunity to reflect on what worked well and what could be improved. To that end, I am calling for the creation of a task force, including student representatives, to conduct a comprehensive review of our current protocols for responding to potential threats and other incidents on campus.”

The announcement also comes after some students lashed out at UCLA last week for its handling of the threat -- suggesting the university could have issued an alert about possible danger sooner. 

Federal prosecutors in Denver last week charged Matthew Christopher Harris, 31, a former postdoctoral fellow, with transmitting threats across state lines. Harris allegedly posted video online and sent an 800-page manifesto -- making "specific threats" to people in UCLA's philosophy department via email, resulting in the school's decision to cancel in-person classes last Tuesday.    

Harris was taken into custody Tuesday in Boulder, Colorado, and a federal judge subsequently ordered him held pending a detention hearing. 

He had lectured in UCLA's philosophy department until being put on “investigatory leave” last year. 

The task force will examine:

  • how information about potential threats is received on the campus;
  • how threats are evaluated by UCPD and with which administrative units they collaborate;
  • how and when cross-campus leadership and key administrative and academic units are made aware of potential threats; 
  • how determinations are made about how and when to notify the broader community; and
  • the effectiveness of our emergency notification processes to the community, including the BruinAlert system. 

The task force, to be chaired by Stephen Yeazell, the David G. Price and Dallas P. Price Distinguished Professor of Law Emeritus, will also be asked to recommend specific steps for improvement. 

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