Chancellor Timothy P. White Press Conference Video – July 20, 2012

University of California, Riverside Chancellor Timothy P. White addresses the media on Friday, July 20, 2012 regarding former undergraduate student James Eagan Holmes and the shootings in Aurora, Colorado. For more information visit

Audio from the press conference and photos may be found here.

Chancellor White’s message to the campus may be found here.

Video Transcript

Good afternoon, my name is Tim White and I am the chancellor at the University of California, Riverside. My entire campus community and our alumni and the town of Riverside offer our deepest and heartfelt condolences to the families and friends who have been directly and indirectly affected by this absolutely horrific shooting in Colorado. I say that as chancellor who works with 21,000 students on a daily basis.  I say that as a parent who has children of college age.

Many of our students I’m sure were at the show at different venues across California last evening.  I know this is something that strikes close to their hearts and for just the luck of location that they were not in Aurora, Colorado.  We are very deeply saddened by this horrific event, and we offer our condolences, as I said, not only to those directly involved, but we’re offering counseling services to all of our students and to our faculty and staff who are directly affected, either by knowing Mr. Holmes, or by having children who were at the show and generalizing from that.

Mr. Holmes was an undergraduate student at the University of California, Riverside.  He joined us in 2006 and graduated in 2010.  He was an honors student in neuroscience, he graduated and had merit-based scholarships while he was here, and then he moved on to Colorado for graduate work.  Again on behalf of the entire university, we’re deeply sorrowed by this tragic event. We will be cooperating with law enforcement as they come to campus in the days and weeks and months ahead.  We’ll cooperate fully with them in anything that we might offer to help make sense of what is a senseless tragedy.  Thank you.

{Chancellor is there any reason to believe that he might have chosen to go to school here versus another school because of the school’s medical school preparing to open?}

I don’t know exactly why he chose to come here.  He was a neuroscience student, and obviously that relates to the health field broadly defined.  It relates to research.  It relates to biotechnology. So I am not able to answer that question.

{Have you spoken to any students or faculty who knew Mr. Holmes while he was here?}

The students and faculty who we’ve discussed this with today obviously are shocked and stunned by the horrific issues and we haven’t had a chance to determine whether or not they have any insight that might lead to a deeper understanding. That is work they will be doing with a law enforcement agency.

{Have you spoken to some of his best friends, professors, and that kind of thing today?}

The campus is going abuzz, really, trying to contact, not only the dean, but the chair of neuroscience, students and faculty who were involved, yes.

{Have you contacted the professors who directly had him in their classrooms?}

There’s been a lot of contact today, across the board. Obviously I think people are trying to digest the news rather than having much coherent to offer at this point.

{Are you aware of any kind of accomplishments he had?}

He was an honors student.  So academically he was at the top of the top.  He really distinguished himself from an academic point of view during his four years with us.  He graduated with highest honors.

{Chancellor White, I understand that he was involved in some laboratory research at UCR. Could you tell us what kind of research he was involved in?}

One of the unfortunate things for me is that there are some things, like your question about what he did while he was here, that federal law prevents me from discussing.  We can acknowledge he was here, we can acknowledge the basic demographics of him, but we’re not at liberty, because of the FERPA law, to discuss anything else at this point.

{Did you have personal contact with Mr. Holmes? Any idea of what type of young man he was while he was here?}

I did not have personal contact, other than I suspect at Commencement when I shook his hand, when I gave him his degree. [Eds. note. Mr. Holmes did not walk in commencement, so would not have been there.]

{Were there any incidents involving the shooter with the police or any other law enforcement agency, anything that would indicate there was a problem?}

There is no evidence, no record of any contact by University of California Police Department with Mr. Holmes.

{James Grant, Assistant Vice Chancellor, Strategic Communications} – Chancellor, by the way, our records show that… indicate that he did not walk at Commencement.

Let me just correct for the record that I did not shake his hand because he did not walk at Commencement. Four thousand others did, but not Mr. Holmes.

{Question regarding the Neuroscience major.}

Neuroscience is one of our more rigorous majors in the biological sciences, biomedical sciences field. And so with that they obviously study chemistry and physics, but also brain anatomy and physiology, psychology, how we all behave. So he was focusing in an area, actually, that is one of the more strongly emerging academic areas across the country. It’s a very fascinating field.

{Follow-up question regarding irony of his area of study.}

I do agree with you, it’s ironic… and sad. A campus like ours, a community like ours, at the end of the day we stick together in good times and bad. I think the overall feel that I have received so far today on campus and in the community is one of not only shock and horror, but support of each other and those who knew him directly, or worked with him, to make sure they go through their grieving process as well. At the end of the day, and all day long, quite frankly, our campus is embracing the families and friends of those who were killed in Colorado and who were injured in Colorado. That is the University of California, Riverside community speaking loudly and clearly about that.

{Have you been contacted by the FBI?}

Law enforcement has contacted the university. All those are early conversations. Obviously, law enforcement is much more focused on the crime scene today. But as the hours and days go forward, I am sure we will be much more engaged with them. We will, of course, be as helpful as we can in anything and everything we know.

{Who broke the news to you?}

I heard the news this morning on my IPad. It was on the air, and then conversations with my senior staff that there was a possibility that the student… that the person was a student here. That was verified first thing this morning and we have been working from that point of view since then.

{What were your thoughts when you found out the suspect had gone here?}

My first thoughts really were about the horrors going on in Aurora, Colorado. That, to be quite frank, is the thing that has my stomach tied up in knots, my emotions on edge, and my prayers and thoughts for the families. The fact that he was a student at the University of California, Riverside, I think, is a collateral fact. It is not germane to what has happened in Colorado. So I am saddened, totally, by what happened there and we just are dealing with the fact that he was a student, and a good student, here. Academically a good student here.

{Question regarding insight on Holmes as a student and what he would do with a neuroscience degree.}

He was obviously interested in health sciences. Probably, and I am hypothesizing now, a lot of students are finding their way when they go into clinical applications as a physician, or as a nurse or nurse-practitioner, or research field, or some combination. He obviously, academically, had the capability to do just about anything he wanted academically. I did learn from the University of Colorado today that he was in the process of withdrawing from that graduate program.

{Question regarding psychological state of the student.}

I have no knowledge of that.

[Press conference ends]

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