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UCLA names new chancellor as campus is still reeling from protests over Israel-Hamas war

LOS ANGELES — The president of the University of Miami was chosen Wednesday to become the next chancellor of the University of California, Los Angeles, where the outgoing incumbent president is leaving a campus roiled by protests over Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza.

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

Frenk will succeed Gene Block, who served as chancellor for 17 years and announced his planned retirement long before UCLA became a national flashpoint for American campus protests. This spring, pro-Palestinian camps were built and cleared by the police with many arrests, and again this week there were more arrests.

Frenk 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 Mexico’s national health minister.

During a brief news conference, Frenk said he approached 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 said, a very important moment in the history of higher education.”

Frenk did not comment on specific protests at UCLA this spring or on the response of the current administration, which initially tolerated an encampment but eventually used police to clear it and prevent new encampments from emerging.

During public comments at the regents meeting, speakers criticized UC administrators, alleged police brutality, complained about a lack of transparency in UC endowments and called for divestment from companies linked to Israel or involved in arms production.

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Speakers also spoke about experiencing anti-Semitism on campus and called for increased law enforcement responses to protesters.

Later, about 200 people gathered, including members of an academic student worker union and the Faculty of Justice for Palestine group, as well as students from other UC campuses. Participants held signs calling for charges against the arrested protesters to be dropped.

Block will leave UCLA on July 31. Darnell Hunt, executive vice president and provost, will serve as interim chancellor until Frenk becomes UCLA’s seventh chancellor on January 1, 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 nonprofit Mexican Health Foundation, and was a senior fellow at 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 a master’s degree in public health and sociology, and a joint doctorate in health care organization and sociology.

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Associated Press writer John Antczak contributed to this report.

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