Pink flags trailed ex-UCLA lecturer throughout elite universities

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A path of crimson flags about his behavior toward women of all ages adopted Matthew Harris on an educational journey that took him to three of the nation’s most prestigious universities — Duke, Cornell and then the College of California, Los Angeles.

Previous graduate classmates at Duke and Cornell, exactly where he researched right before turning out to be a postdoctoral fellow at UCLA in recent decades, explained him as inappropriate and creepy, with obsessive behaviors like sending abnormal emails and textual content messages to some females that turned harassment and, in at least one situation, sexual harassment. A different mentioned she transformed her morning regimen at Duke for weeks immediately after Harris learned her plan and texted her messages like, “I’m in this article, where are you?”

Very last week, a SWAT workforce in Colorado arrested Harris right after he allegedly emailed an 800-webpage doc and posted videos threatening violence versus dozens of men and women at UCLA, prompting the school to terminate in-particular person classes for a day. The so-termed manifesto contained numerous racist threats and made use of the text “bomb,” “kill” and “shoot” additional than 12,000 situations.

Sporting a green jail jumpsuit with his wrists handcuffed, Harris did not talk Tuesday in the course of his quick physical appearance in federal courtroom in Denver. Another listening to is scheduled for Feb. 23 and a judge ordered him to continue being in federal custody without having bail.

Assistant Federal Community Defender Jennifer Beck advised the decide Harris is hunting to hire personal counsel. Beck did not quickly return a ask for for extra comment.

In on-line class opinions, interviews and e-mails received by The Affiliated Press, latest and previous learners at all 3 universities alleged carelessness by the faculties for allowing Harris slide beforehand, despite his relating to conduct.

“I have no thought how this man is nonetheless instructing,” just one of his UCLA college students wrote in October 2020 in an nameless class evaluation.

Two former Duke students, who spoke to the AP on situation of anonymity due to the fact they concern for their basic safety, stated that when they did not report Harris to college officials at the time, his conduct was perfectly known in just the small philosophy program and they did not truly feel they would have been supported by college if they’d occur forward.

Taken with each other in the years since important mass shootings at Columbine Large Faculty, Virginia Tech and elsewhere, the students’ allegations at 3 top rated-tier colleges raise inquiries about the line between unpleasant and actionable conduct, a university’s duty to encourage the reporting of it, and an institution’s obligation to avoid it from transpiring at yet another school.

The students’ descriptions of several years of alarming actions prompts an additional concern: What, if something, did the universities do to get Harris help?


A graduate student at Duke as he finished his Ph.D. in 2019, Harris also attended Cornell for a year ahead of UCLA hired him as a postdoctoral fellow and lecturer — a distinguished publishing — right until he was put on “investigatory leave” past March soon after allegedly sending pornographic and violent information to his college students.

“Clearly Duke need to not have passed him to us, and Duke and Cornell should really not have passed him to UCLA,” reported Adriene Takaoka, a Cornell philosophy graduate scholar whose time overlapped with Harris’. “We’re just lucky that no one’s been bodily hurt. Absolutely people today have been psychologically destroyed.”

The previous Duke students described their original interactions with Harris as largely collegial, but with unusual undertones that grew in excess of the yrs.

“There would just be this emotion of ‘um, I sense uncomfortable’ or ‘that was creepy,’” one more said. “By the time I left the plan, I preferred certainly nothing to do with him.”

But Andrew Janiak, a Duke philosophy professor and previous chair of the section who served on Harris’ dissertation committee, stated he under no circumstances experienced any indicator of this kind of habits, describing him as “very shy, really reticent, hardly ever intense. I hardly ever saw him even elevate his voice.”

Janiak been given the to start with reviews of harassment in late March, immediately after Harris experienced still left Duke. Emails exhibit Janiak promptly contacted UCLA.

Duke and Cornell declined to comment to AP and did not solution a checklist of thorough questions sent by means of e-mail, these as no matter whether any formal studies have been created about Harris though he attended their institutions and if there had been none, what that claims about their tradition of reporting.


The indicators were there, like bread crumbs scattered across the a few faculties.

The early morning routine incident at Duke. A property occasion at Cornell where by he experimented with to rope a relative stranger into a dialogue about his psychological overall health. Adverse online opinions of his UCLA lectures. Maniacal laughter that disrupted classes. Odd interactions with ladies he’d technique out of the blue on campus. A marketing campaign of incessant textual content messages and e-mail that brought on many college students to cut off get in touch with with him.

“No 1 would glance at that child and say, ‘Oh, he’s high-quality,’” mentioned Brian Van Brunt, an qualified on campus violence and mental wellness and former president of the National Association for Behavioral Intervention and Threat Assessment. “Typically another person like this didn’t just appear out of nowhere.”

In current yrs, most faculties and universities have shaped behavioral intervention and danger evaluation groups in reaction to faculty shootings, intended to flag regarding behavior and get assistance prior to carry out escalates.

Emails and court paperwork exhibit UCLA’s behavioral intervention workforce was involved, but possibly not right up until as late as March 30, 2021, when Harris’ conduct genuinely began to escalate.

That spring, Harris commenced sending weird and disturbing e-mails to his previous classmates and recent UCLA college students. The email messages to the UCLA pupils allegedly provided pornographic and violent content despatched to females in his analysis team, prompting the university to set him on “investigatory leave.”

Bill Kisliuk, UCLA’s director of media relations, claimed in an email that people today at the university “brought concerns” to its Title IX office environment previous yr, which “worked with the men and women to handle the issues.” He declined to remark further more, citing privacy. The college announced Monday that it was building a activity power “to conduct a extensive review” of its protocols for examining likely threats.

The messages to Harris’ previous Duke classmates, however, experienced one-way links to his YouTube channel that integrated a online video titled “Dead White Professors (Duke College remix).” Irrespective of evidence he was in North Carolina at the time, the university appeared unwilling to bar him from campus, emails show.

In April, his mother reached out to a professor at College of California, Irvine, expressing her son in January experienced threatened in e-mails to “hunt” and destroy the female. The professor experienced briefly satisfied Harris in 2013 while they ended up both equally at Duke and he reached out when he moved to LA in 2020, sending e-mail and text messages that would transform aggressive and obsessive.

“I would not be able to live with myself if I did absolutely nothing and a person got damage,” Harris’ mom wrote.

All those messages prompted the UC program to get hold of a place of work violence restraining get from him, which barred him from all UC campuses. UCLA law enforcement also sought a Gun Violence Crisis Protecting Buy.

In November — months after he’d been involuntarily fully commited to a psychological wellness facility and, his mom later instructed the FBI, identified with schizophrenia — Harris tried to get a gun but was denied mainly because of all those orders.


Now, his former classmates surprise: How did Harris even get hired at UCLA?

His dissertation — even with an alarming determination posted on line — would have been permitted unanimously by a four-particular person committee. Janiak explained he wrote Harris a letter of advice but declined to talk about it.

“Everyone would like to re-study the previous and try out to figure out, ‘was he secretly crazy,’” the professor mentioned, but there was nothing at all “that would make me imagine, ‘boy, this person’s in problems.’ ”

Janiak mentioned college students noted other complaints to him although he was chair of the division, but no a person arrived forward about Harris until very last March.

The onus is on the incoming establishment to talk to targeted concerns about an applicant outside of their tutorial qualifications, in accordance to Saunie Schuster, a law firm who advises colleges and co-started the Association of Title IX Directors.

When educational facilities normally are unable to point out unproven accusations for panic of a lawsuit, Schuster stated, they can do a history check that contains mobile phone interviews with classmates, supervisors and pupils. It’s not distinct regardless of whether UCLA officers carried out these a history check out or interviews the university did not respond to AP’s questions regarding no matter whether it arrived at out Duke or Cornell through the hiring course of action.

Schuster said a history research would’ve permitted queries to be posed to previous companies like, “Would you seek the services of this individual to operate right with you?”

“Has this particular person demonstrated any carry out that you have noticed that would give you concerns?”

For Harris’ former classmates, the respond to is apparent: Certainly.


Involved Push writers James Anderson and Colleen Slevin in Denver contributed.