University of Miami president tapped for chancellor role at UCLA

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The president of the University of Miami was chosen Wednesday to become the next chancellor of the University of California, Los Angeles, where the retiring incumbent has faced widespread scrutiny over his handling of pro-Palestinian campus protests.

Dr Julio Frenk, a Mexico City-born global public health researcher, was selected by regents of the University of California system at a meeting on the UCLA campus, where there was a swarm of security officers.

Frenk will succeed Gene Block, who has been chancellor for 17 years and announced his planned retirement long before UCLA became a national flashpoint for US campus protests. In April, students who set up Gaza solidarity camps faced physical attacks from counter-protesters as police failed to intervene, and days later, police launched a militarized clearing of the camps and conducted mass arrests. They arrested 27 people earlier this week as students attempted to set up a new pro-Palestinian encampment on campus.

Frenk, who will be the first Latino to run UCLA, has led the 17,000-student University of Miami since 2015 and previously served as dean of the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and as Mexico’s national health secretary, among other positions.

In a brief press conference, Frenk said he was approaching the appointment with excitement and humility.

“The first thing I plan to do is listen very carefully,” Frenk said. “This is a complex organization. It is, as I mentioned, a really consequential moment in the history of higher education.”

Frenk did not comment on specific protests at UCLA this spring or the current administration’s response. After the violence and arrests, hundreds of faculty called on Block to immediately resign. .

During public comment in the regents meeting, speakers criticized UC administrators, raised concerns about police brutality, complained of a lack of transparency in UC endowments and called for divestment from companies with ties to Israel or in weapons manufacturing.

Speakers also talked about experiencing antisemitism on campus and called for an increased law enforcement response to protesters.

Later, about 200 people rallied, including members of an academic student workers union and the Faculty for Justice for Palestine group as well as students from other UC campuses. Participants held signs calling for charges to be dropped against protesters who had been arrested. Dozens of student protesters were also recently called into meetings over their alleged “code of conduct” violations, with the university threatening to withhold their degrees if they did not comply with the disciplinary process.

Frenk’s appointment comes at a volatile time for the entire public university system. Thousands of graduate student workers recently went on strike to protest the UC administration’s handling of protests across campuses, but a judge on Friday ordered demonstrators to end the strike.

Block departs UCLA on 31 July. Darnell Hunt, executive vice-president and provost, will serve as interim chancellor until Frenk becomes UCLA’s seventh chancellor on 1 January 2025.

In previous roles, Frenk was founding director of Mexico’s National Institute of Public Health, held positions at the World Health Organization and the non-profit Mexican Health Foundation, and was a senior fellow with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s global health program.

Frenk received his medical degree from the National University of Mexico in 1979. He then attended the University of Michigan, where he earned master’s degrees in public health and sociology, and a joint doctorate in medical care organization and sociology.

Read More: University of Miami president tapped for chancellor role at UCLA

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