Monday, June 6, 2016

Worth Noting in the Post-Shooting Aftermath

From the Daily Bruin:

Attacks on statistics lecturer Vivian Lew are based on misinformation

BY SHARON XU, June 5, 2016

When UCLA statistics lecturer Vivian Lew received the alert of police activity in Engineering IV, she immediately thought of her students’ safety. There was an exam scheduled for her Statistics 20 students in a nearby building, so she hastily sent an email instructing them to ignore the scheduled location and avoid the area, reassuring them that they would have the opportunity to take the exam at a later time.

During this time of confusion and crisis, there was a substantial time delay on the email system. Her email, though sent significantly earlier, was only received by students after the campus-wide lockdown and active shooter alert. As a result, the email was widely misinterpreted as forcing her students to take the exam despite the lockdown. However, once she realized the severity of the situation, she canceled the exam altogether, and gave a full and heartfelt apology to each of her students, as well as an explanation of what had happened.

In the aftermath, news and media outlets accused Lew of placing an exam above student safety. Their source? The embellishments, fabrications and misinformation surrounding a single email, taken out of context by people who knew neither the person nor the situation, carelessly cobbled together into clickbait.

I have been a student of this teacher for several years, and she is one of the kindest, most caring individuals I know. Lew goes above and beyond to help her students, even when it is not directly related to her classes. Step into her office for a quick chat, and you’ll find yourself leaving an hour later having talked about everything from coursework to career to life (and often with sage advice in all three areas).

Here is just one small example of her kindness: Once on my birthday, she treated me to a “birthday dinner,” and we had a really nice time catching up. On the way back, she insisted on walking me all the way to my apartment, even though it was in the opposite direction of where her car was parked. Contrary to the rumors that strangers have spread online, this is clearly someone who cares deeply about her students and their safety.

Now, however, that same teacher has to worry about her own safety. Serious threats and vicious personal attacks have made her feel more unsafe than she has in 35 years of calling this campus her home. For someone who has worked so hard and given so much to her students, this is just not right.

It has been shocking to see the level of hatred that people are willing to project upon a complete stranger. But it is has also been heartening to see so many of Vivian’s students rallying behind her – posting all over social media and checking in on her in such large numbers that she’s developed her own personal posse of well-wishers. This piece itself is a response to the student-run Statistics Club, which called upon its members for submissions to the Daily Bruin in her defense. All of this unwavering support is, I think, only further testament to how much she has done for us as a teacher.

My heart goes out to everyone who was affected by this – I can only imagine how incredibly difficult this must have been for those on campus, how stressful it must have been not to know what was going on. In such a highly-charged atmosphere, I know it can be easy to make snap judgments and accusations. The tragic events of June 1st have left many in shock and searching for answers – I just hope that the UCLA community will rise above the misinformation, and find a way to support each other during these troubling times.

Xu is a former statistics student who graduated in winter 2016.


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