UCLA Chancellor Named: University of Miami President Julio Frenk

University of Miami President Julio Frenk, a Mexican-born global health expert, will become UCLA’s next chancellor and the first Latino named to lead the nation’s largest public research university, securing unanimous approval from the University of California regents on Wednesday – as the campus faces a dark period of divisive protests.

Frenk, 70, will bring deep public health expertise, a medical degree and experience as Mexico’s former health minister to the Westwood campus, allowing him to oversee its comprehensive network of hospitals and clinics as well as the large university establishment of 46,700 students. Frenk has also proven to be a prodigious fundraiser, leading a $2.5 billion campaign for the University of Miami’s centennial next year and quadrupling his contributions as dean of the health school Harvard University, helping to secure a historic $350 million endowment gift.

Frenk will succeed Chancellor Gene Block, who will step down July 31 after a 17-year tenure that included leading UCLA through a financial crisis and a global pandemic to reach new heights in increasing enrollment, diversity, philanthropy and research funding.

Frenk won’t take the reins until January 2025. Darnell Hunt, executive vice chancellor and provost at UCLA, will serve as interim chancellor until then after Block returns to his professorship as a researcher on sleep cycles and circadian rhythms.

The UC regents unanimously approved the appointment of Frenk, who was recommended by UC President Michael V. Drake. He will earn an annual base salary of $978,904.

“At this pivotal moment for higher education, returning to the public sector to lead one of the world’s top research universities – comprising one of the 10 largest academic health systems – is an exciting opportunity and a great honor for me,” Frenk said. . in a statement after the vote. “I look forward to adding my lifelong commitment to public service in education and health care to the vibrant, diverse and cosmopolitan community that is Los Angeles.”

Julio Frenk, left, will become chancellor of UCLA in January. 2025. Darnell Hunt, right, executive vice chancellor and dean of UCLA, will serve as interim chancellor.

(Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times)

Frenk will come to UCLA at a particularly fruitful time, as protests against the Israel-Hamas war, the labor strike, growing burdens on faculty and lingering pandemic blues have rocked the campus. Despite UCLA’s top academic ranking and status as the nation’s most applied university, many on campus are reporting what they see as unprecedented division, acrimony, burnout and unease. The division was reflected in a close but unsuccessful faculty vote to censure Block and express distrust in his leadership in handling the university’s response to a pro-Palestinian encampment and mob attack on it. this.

In several recent interviews with UCLA faculty and students about their hopes for the next chancellor, the dominant issue raised was the need to unify the broken campus.

“Historically, I don’t think we’ve seen this much division — it’s hard to keep the community together,” said Andrea Kasko, president of the UCLA Academic Senate. “The next chancellor will have to rebuild trust with everyone, do a lot of listening. The community must heal.

Frenk’s background might suit him for this task. The son of a German Jewish father who fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s, he was personally sensitive to anti-Semitism; he also praised the power of tolerance, inclusion, generosity and kindness. He says the Mexicans offered his displaced family and helped them succeed.

“Universities are more essential than ever, especially as we move into a complex environment marked by narratives that divide certain groups in society against each other,” he said in an interview granted several years ago to Thrive Global. “We must stand out as a symbol of using reason to respectfully manage our differences – and of our ability to embrace diversity in all its dimensions. But this diversity must be accompanied by the idea that we can tolerate different perspectives, because it also includes diversity of opinions.”

Frenk, however, did not confront the intense pro-Palestinian protests and counter-protests that sparked violence, aggressive police actions, arrests, and student disciplinary cases at UCLA and other campuses. Across the country. University of Miami students did not organize a pro-Palestinian encampment; Two months ago, a lecture on campus was given by survivors of the October attacks. The Hamas attack on Israel appears to have sparked no protests.

At UCLA, Frenk will also face controversy over policing and security practices. While UCLA leaders have been criticized for failing to provide enough policing to stem attacks on pro-Palestinian protesters on April 30 and May 1, others are highly critical of the regard to the current level of policing.

Carlos Santos, associate professor of social welfare, said the new chancellor must address growing concerns about what some on campus see as excessive use of police force and sanctions against peaceful protesters.

And it remains to be seen how far Frenk will transition from a career at smaller private universities — the University of Miami has 18,000 students — to the much larger public UCLA and the 10-campus UC system.

At UC Berkeley, for example, faculty advocated for an internal candidate to replace outgoing Chancellor Carol Christ, given the complexity of the campus, and secured one for the dean of the business school, Dean Rich Lyons, who will take the helm July 1. Some UCLA professors have raised similar questions. on an outsider’s ability to grasp and manage UC’s largest campus without experience of the system.

Shane White and Michael Meranze, former presidents of the UCLA Academic Senate, said faculty numbers have not kept pace with rising student enrollment, leading to greater workloads and burnout professional. Between 2011 and 2023, UCLA student enrollment increased by 18.8%, but University Senate faculty members increased by less than 2%.

Additionally, Kasko said, understaffing has placed more bureaucratic tasks on professors, leading to less time for teaching and research.

The three faculty leaders also said graduate students must be better supported financially or the campus will have to reduce their numbers and risk losing the young intellectual talent essential to UC’s powerful research institution.

“We need more classrooms, more faculty and more graduate students,” White said. “We are meant to be the brains of Silicon Valley’s next inventors and startups to meet the needs of society.”

James Steintrager, chair of the UC systemwide Academic Senate, said Frenk’s ability to straddle the worlds of academic research and health care delivery made him an excellent fit for UCLA. “The pool of candidates to lead this leading public university was remarkable, but Dr. Frenk stood out for his unique combination of scientific, medical, administrative and policy expertise,” he said in a statement .

Among students, many say the cost of housing, food, transportation and other financial needs is an ongoing problem. Adam Tfayli, UCLA’s student body president, said the next chancellor should be more attentive to those needs and more accessible to students to hear their concerns, such as campus safety and the growing feelings of alienation lingering in due to the pandemic and distance learning.

“The current climate on campus is at an all-time low,” he said. “People aren’t necessarily that connected. »

Frenk addressed these needs at the University of Miami when he took office in 2015. In his inaugural address, he announced two major commitments: creating 100 new endowed positions to attract and retain top faculty, and increasing the support for students to meet 100% of needs. demonstrated financial need.

He also praised student activism. In a column for the University of Miami student newspaper, he praised his students — some of whom graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where a gunman killed 17 people in 2018 — for their advocacy against gun violence. He said their “refusal to remain silent in the face of violence and intimidation” inspired him.

Frenk’s greatest professional passion is global health. A fourth-generation physician, he received his medical degree from the National Autonomous University of Mexico in 1979. He also earned master’s degrees in public health and sociology and a joint doctorate in medical care organization and sociology of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

Frenk served as Minister of Health under President Vicente Fox from 2000 to 2006 and is credited with introducing universal health insurance, Seguro Popular, which expanded access to health care for millions of uninsured Mexicans. He expanded access to family planning and contraception – drawing criticism from some conservatives. He also worked as a principal investigator for the global health program of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and was director of the World Health Organization in Geneva.

At Harvard, Frenk is credited with balancing the school of public health’s budget, diversifying research and helping secure the $350 million gift, the largest in Harvard history.

Frenk is married to Felicia Knaul, a health economist; The couple have two children. In addition to scientific articles, he has written two children’s books about the human body and enjoys opera, cycling, football and football.

“Dr. Frenk has demonstrated a powerful commitment to the health and well-being of people, institutions and systems across the world,” Drake said in a statement. “His leadership will build on the growth and strength the campus has achieved under Chancellor Block’s leadership and accelerate UCLA’s brilliant trajectory in service to Los Angeles, the nation and the world.”

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