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UCLA professor asked students to take final exam during lockdown

LOS ANGELES -- Amid fears of a shooter on campus, and as hundreds at UCLA were barricading themselves in classrooms, students of one statistics professor were getting emails to find a computer and take their final exam.

Students at UCLA block the doors amid reports of a shooter on campus Wednesday, June 1, 2016. CBS News

The professor, Vivian Lew, has drawn criticism for her decision to continue on with the exam in the midst of a massive campus lockdown.

Professor Vivian Lew. UCLA

A campus spokesperson told CBS News on Thursday that Lew did not understand the severity of the situation.

The confusion began around 10 a.m. PT when reports of the shooting were spreading across the campus. At the same time, emails from Lew were sent to her students saying to get to a computer to take the final exam.

CBS News reached out to Lew, but she did not respond to a request for comment. In a statement sent to CBS News Thursday night, statistics department chair Mark S. Handcock said the professor's email was sent on "time-delay" and went out before she was aware of the campus lockdown.

Other reports have quoted Lew admitting in the email she was locked in her office and urged students to avoid the area, but to take the test.

UCLA shooting reveals problem with campus doors 02:56

"In the initial moments after yesterday's tragedy occurred, one of our faculty members who had not yet received official word of the campuswide lockdown incorrectly assumed that students just needed to avoid the area of Engineering Building 4 because of police activity," the statement read. "She sent an email asking her students to take a planned exam anywhere else. Unfortunately, her email was sent on time-delay and it crossed over with a campuswide lockdown alert."

Police confirm UCLA shooter had a "kill list" 02:17

"This was not the intent of the faculty member, who was horrified that this had accidentally occurred," said the statement, which defended her as a professor "extremely dedicated" to her students.

Handcock said Lew made a "full and heartfelt apology to the students in the class for the mistake."

Advised by university text alerts to turn off lights and lock doors where they were, many students let friends and family know they were safe in social media posts. Some described frantic evacuation scenes, while others wrote that their doors weren't locking and posted photos of photocopiers and tables they used as barricades.

Mainak Sarkar shot and killed professor Bill Klug, 39, in a UCLA engineering building Wednesday. He then fatally shot himself. The shooting led to a lockdown on the campus with 60,000 or more students and staff members.

The investigation into the murder-suicide took another turn Thursday when police said they suspected Sarkar earlier killed a woman in Minnesota. He then drove to Los Angeles to confront and kill the professor, police said.

Classes at the UCLA campus resumed Thursday for most. Students and faculty in the engineering department will return to school on Monday.

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