Former UCLA Lecturer Allegedly Posted Videos Threatening a Mass Shooting, Leading the University to Switch to Online Classes
UCLA is on watch after a former lecturer and post-doctoral fellow allegedly posted a threatening video referencing a mass shooting and an 800-page manifesto with other threats to members of the philosophy department on Monday.
In response, the university swiftly moved to online classes starting Tuesday, while both the Los Angeles police department and the FBI continue to investigate.
As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Chief of Police Michel Moore said the campus is safe, but they are taking the threats seriously. The videos allegedly come from former lecturer Matthew Harris, with Moore saying that they quickly noticed “online media posts involving YouTube videos and a manifesto,” where Harris was reportedly referencing “a mass violence or shooting event at UCLA.”
The department was quick to act, sending out emails calling for a switch to online classes instead of traditional in-person lectures.
However, by Tuesday morning, UCLA learned that Harris was already “under observation” by police and was not actually located in California. Still, a Tuesday email to students read: “Nonetheless, out of an abundance of caution, all classes will be held remotely tomorrow, Feb 1… we will keep you updated on developments.”
Harris was located in Boulder, Colorado, and has now been taken into custody.
UCLA’s philosophy department chair Sherrrilyn Roush recommended other faculty to avoid meeting with students in person “until Harris’ location [was] determined,” so it is now unclear whether or not the university will return to in-class learning. Per the LA Times, the email stated, “in light of this, we will continue to have discussion through Zoom until the authorities say that it is safe… but I would avoid being anywhere near Dodd Hall or the philosophy department until further notice.”
Harris’ YouTube channel included more than 300 videos, but the account has since been suspended. Most of the videos were posted on Monday, with a Sunday video titled “UCLA PHILOSOPHY (MASS SHOOTING)” being the biggest cause for concern. The video shows clips from the 2017 Las Vegas music festival shooting, and the movie “Zero Day” which centers on the Columbine High School mass shooting. Other videos show him saying racist, profane comments, talking about a “list” of locations on UCLA’s campus, and playing video games where he fires guns at people.
Meanwhile, Harris also sent an email Sunday night to former students, saying racist profanity directed to the Jewish and East Asian communities. In emails he also stated, “da war is comin.”
While UCLA police asserted that “at this time we’re not concerned about anything happening,” it doesn’t seem to be the first time that Harris is a serious cause for concern at the university.
The philosophy department’s mental evaluation unit contacted him in spring 2021, and Harris may have allegedly sent pornographic imagery to a student. One Bruinwalk review states, “this professor is extremely unprofessional and has sent his personal p*rnographic content to a student.” As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Harris was put on mandatory leave in spring 2021 while the alleged act was investigated.
Meanwhile, UCLA students are showing anxiety, understandable concern, and frustration at the lack of communication — with many sharing their thoughts on Twitter.
One student tweeted, “if students didn’t say anything in the groupme/reddit no one would have known about this because ucla wasn’t going to say a damn thing,” referencing Reddit threads like these where students swapped information on the incident. Another student didn’t hold back when they wrote, “UCLA just trynna hold onto its pride… BRO HE WROTE A WHOLE 800 PAGE MANIFESTO DAWG SHUT THE SCHOOL DOWN.”
One other student tweeted, “ucla not communicating about a mass shooting threat to its student body…. yea not one person from that administration is seeing the pearly gates of heaven,” while another compared the campus to “Black Mirror” and referenced a video UCLA posted to Instagram stories. “The way that mass shootings in the US are so normalized that not only will UCLA send us a lil 25sec statement via Instagram but professors will also tell u to just lock the doors at the first sign of danger and tough it out…like why is this Black Mirror fr.”