Purple flags trailed ex-UCLA lecturer throughout elite universities

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A path of crimson flags about his behavior towards gals adopted Matthew Harris on an tutorial journey that took him to a few of the nation’s most prestigious universities — Duke, Cornell and then the College of California, Los Angeles.

Previous graduate classmates at Duke and Cornell, where he analyzed ahead of turning out to be a postdoctoral fellow at UCLA in current a long time, explained him as inappropriate and creepy, with obsessive behaviors like sending excessive e-mails and text messages to some ladies that became harassment and, in at the very least a person case, sexual harassment. A further reported she adjusted her early morning routine at Duke for weeks right after Harris figured out her agenda and texted her messages like, “I’m below, in which are you?”

Past 7 days, a SWAT group in Colorado arrested Harris right after he allegedly emailed an 800-webpage doc and posted movies threatening violence in opposition to dozens of people at UCLA, prompting the college to terminate in-particular person lessons for a day. The so-known as manifesto contained various racist threats and applied the words “bomb,” “kill” and “shoot” additional than 12,000 occasions.

Sporting a inexperienced jail jumpsuit with his wrists handcuffed, Harris did not communicate Tuesday through his short visual appearance in federal court in Denver. An additional hearing is scheduled for Feb. 23 and a decide purchased him to continue to be in federal custody with no bail.

Assistant Federal Community Defender Jennifer Beck informed the judge Harris is wanting to hire personal counsel. Beck did not instantly return a request for added remark.

In on line class reviews, interviews and e-mail received by The Related Press, recent and previous pupils at all a few universities alleged negligence by the educational institutions for allowing Harris slide beforehand, inspite of his regarding perform.

“I have no concept how this dude is nonetheless instructing,” a single of his UCLA college students wrote in October 2020 in an nameless class evaluation.

Two former Duke students, who spoke to the AP on problem of anonymity since they anxiety for their safety, stated that although they did not report Harris to university officials at the time, his actions was properly recognized inside the modest philosophy program and they did not come to feel they would have been supported by college if they’d arrive forward.

Taken collectively in the years considering the fact that main mass shootings at Columbine Significant College, Virginia Tech and elsewhere, the students’ allegations at 3 leading-tier faculties elevate thoughts about the line amongst uncomfortable and actionable actions, a university’s responsibility to stimulate the reporting of it, and an institution’s obligation to stop it from taking place at a different college.

The students’ descriptions of yrs of alarming behavior prompts another dilemma: What, if something, did the universities do to get Harris assist?


A graduate scholar at Duke as he concluded his Ph.D. in 2019, Harris also attended Cornell for a year before UCLA hired him as a postdoctoral fellow and lecturer — a distinguished posting — right until he was put on “investigatory leave” past March immediately after allegedly sending pornographic and violent written content to his college students.

“Clearly Duke need to not have handed him to us, and Duke and Cornell ought to not have passed him to UCLA,” claimed Adriene Takaoka, a Cornell philosophy graduate university student whose time overlapped with Harris’. “We’re just fortunate that no one’s been physically hurt. Unquestionably men and women have been psychologically harmed.”

The previous Duke students described their original interactions with Harris as mostly collegial, but with weird undertones that grew in excess of the decades.

“There would just be this emotion of ‘um, I feel uncomfortable’ or ‘that was creepy,’” a different explained. “By the time I remaining the method, I wanted unquestionably very little to do with him.”

But Andrew Janiak, a Duke philosophy professor and former chair of the division who served on Harris’ dissertation committee, mentioned he by no means experienced any indicator of this kind of actions, describing him as “very shy, very reticent, never intense. I never saw him even increase his voice.”

Janiak been given the 1st reviews of harassment in late March, immediately after Harris had still left Duke. Emails display Janiak right away contacted UCLA.

Duke and Cornell declined to remark to AP and did not remedy a record of in-depth issues despatched through email, these kinds of as regardless of whether any official stories were created about Harris even though he attended their institutions and if there have been none, what that suggests about their society of reporting.


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

The morning routine incident at Duke. A household party at Cornell exactly where he tried using to rope a relative stranger into a discussion about his psychological wellbeing. Unfavorable online evaluations of his UCLA lectures. Maniacal laughter that disrupted classes. Odd interactions with women he’d strategy out of the blue on campus. A campaign of incessant textual content messages and e-mail that brought about many college students to slash off get hold of with him.

“No one would appear at that kid and say, ‘Oh, he’s great,’” claimed Brian Van Brunt, an pro on campus violence and psychological wellness and former president of the National Affiliation for Behavioral Intervention and Risk Evaluation. “Typically an individual like this didn’t just appear out of nowhere.”

In latest decades, most faculties and universities have fashioned behavioral intervention and danger assessment groups in reaction to college shootings, meant to flag relating to conduct and get support in advance of conduct escalates.

Email messages and courtroom paperwork present UCLA’s behavioral intervention team was involved, but perhaps not right until as late as March 30, 2021, when Harris’ actions actually began to escalate.

That spring, Harris began sending bizarre and disturbing e-mail to his previous classmates and existing UCLA students. The emails to the UCLA college students allegedly included pornographic and violent written content sent to gals in his investigate team, prompting the college to set him on “investigatory go away.”

Monthly bill Kisliuk, UCLA’s director of media relations, stated in an e mail that persons at the college “brought concerns” to its Title IX business very last calendar year, which “worked with the men and women to deal with the issues.” He declined to remark additional, citing privateness. The college declared Monday that it was building a undertaking pressure “to perform a complete review” of its protocols for assessing prospective threats.

The messages to Harris’ previous Duke classmates, however, had hyperlinks to his YouTube channel that provided a online video titled “Dead White Professors (Duke College remix).” Regardless of evidence he was in North Carolina at the time, the college appeared unwilling to bar him from campus, e-mail demonstrate.

In April, his mother achieved out to a professor at College of California, Irvine, declaring her son in January experienced threatened in e-mails to “hunt” and destroy the woman. The professor experienced briefly met Harris in 2013 when they were being both equally at Duke and he attained out when he moved to LA in 2020, sending e-mails and text messages that would transform aggressive and obsessive.

“I wouldn’t be capable to dwell with myself if I did absolutely nothing and anyone bought damage,” Harris’ mother wrote.

Those messages prompted the UC procedure to acquire a workplace violence restraining get towards him, which barred him from all UC campuses. UCLA police also sought a Gun Violence Emergency Protecting Purchase.

In November — months following he’d been involuntarily committed to a psychological wellbeing facility and, his mother later instructed the FBI, identified with schizophrenia — Harris tried to invest in a gun but was denied for the reason that of those orders.


Now, his previous classmates speculate: How did Harris even get hired at UCLA?

His dissertation — inspite of an alarming determination posted on the web — would have been permitted unanimously by a 4-individual committee. Janiak mentioned he wrote Harris a letter of advice but declined to talk about it.

“Everyone desires to re-examine the previous and check out to determine out, ‘was he secretly crazy,’” the professor reported, but there was very little “that would make me think, ‘boy, this person’s in issues.’ ”

Janiak stated college students documented other grievances to him whilst he was chair of the section, but no 1 arrived forward about Harris until eventually past March.

The onus is on the incoming institution to ask specific questions about an applicant past their tutorial credentials, according to Saunie Schuster, a lawyer who advises colleges and co-established the Affiliation of Title IX Administrators.

When colleges generally can’t point out unproven accusations for concern of a lawsuit, Schuster explained, they can do a history examine that consists of phone interviews with classmates, supervisors and college students. It’s not clear no matter whether UCLA officers conducted these kinds of a qualifications check out or interviews the university did not reply AP’s thoughts pertaining to irrespective of whether it reached out Duke or Cornell throughout the hiring system.

Schuster mentioned a track record search would’ve authorized questions to be posed to former companies like, “Would you hire this unique to get the job done immediately with you?”

“Has this person demonstrated any carry out that you’ve noticed that would give you worries?”

For Harris’ former classmates, the remedy is very clear: Sure.


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