Should UCLA Face Criminal Charges in Sangji Death Case

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You may be asking why Dr. Harran and UCLA are being held criminally responsible for what, on a surface level, seems like an unfortunate accident. The answer is related to the roles of UCLA as the institution that both employed Dr. Harran and Ms. Sangji and allocated funding for the laboratory. As such, they were ultimately responsible for training of employees and enforcement of safety protocols. Dr. Harran, as the Principal Investigator and Sangji’s supervisor, was equally responsible for making sure his employees wore the appropriate clothing when working with highly flammable substances, were properly trained in safety protocols, and were aware of emergency procedures.

The investigators concluded the following:

  • UCLA was aware and accepted that many Principal Investigators (PIs) did not enforce proper use of safety equipment and procedures.
  • UCLA failed to “exercise any reasonable diligence” by allowing PIs to ignore safety regulations and enforcing training of PIs and their subordinates.
  •  Sangji was not properly trained to work with highly flammable materials as t-Butyllithium.
  • Oral transfer of knowledge is insufficient when working with a material as dangerous as t-Butyllithium.
  • The failure by Dr. Harren to train Sangji was a “causal element.”
  • Appropriate safety equipment was not provided to Sangji.
  • Manufacturers of t-Butyllithium have recommended that fire resistant clothing be worn when handling the element.

Dr. Harran and the Board of Regents of UCLA will be arraigned on felony charges this Thursday.