UCLA names new chancellor amid anti-war protests, arrests

UCLA named a new leader Wednesday amid continued campus unrest over pro-Palestinian activity — two days after police arrested two dozen demonstrators who attempted to set up yet another encampment to protest the war in Gaza.

The university’s new chancellor is Julio Frenk, a public health researcher and president of the University of Miami. Frenk, who will begin his new role on Jan. 1, will be the first Latino to lead the school in its 105-year history. He previously served as dean of the Harvard School of Public Health and national secretary of health of Mexico.

Frank replaces Gene Block, 75, who served as UCLA chancellor for nearly 20 years but announced last year his intention to resign at the end of July. As his term ended this spring, Block faced criticism for his handling of pro-Palestinian protests on campus, with faculty narrowly failing to vote to censure him.

“I approach this designation with great enthusiasm and also with humility,” Frenk said at a news conference Wednesday. “I consider this chancellor position to be my dream job.”

UCLA leaders said Wednesday that Frenk will work to reunite the school, with UCLA Board of Trustees Chairman Richard Leib calling him a “healing man” who will “help bring the campus.” Frenk promised he would facilitate dialogue, proving to everyone at UCLA that “there is a commonality, a common humanity that unites everyone.”

Frenk’s selection comes after a turbulent period for the university, which became a hotbed of violence this spring as pro-Palestinian protests spread to college campuses across the country. At UCLA in late April, counterprotesters attacked a student encampment with fireworks and irritant gas, as well as punches, metal poles and wooden planks — but police did not intervene for more than three hours, according to a Washington Post investigation. The following night, police in riot gear cleared the encampment and arrested more than 200 people.

In the aftermath, UCLA announced that its school’s police chief had been reassigned and that officials had created a campus safety office to review security concerns. The school’s leadership also commissioned an external investigation into the university’s response that evening, as well as a separate investigation into the perpetrators’ acts of violence. The school requested help from the FBI.

Frenk said Wednesday he was aware of both ongoing investigations, adding that he looks forward to reviewing the investigators’ findings and recommendations.

On Monday afternoon, about 100 demonstrators attempted to reestablish protest encampments at UCLA in the final days of the spring quarter and as students took their final exams. Protesters attempted to set up two encampments and dispersed under orders from UCLA police, according to a statement from school police. At one point, protesters entered a campus building where students were taking exams, police said.

Protesters then marched to a courtyard and set up a third encampment, ultimately leading UCLA police to arrest and charge approximately 25 people with disrupting university operations, according to the police statement. Police released all 25 people and ordered them to stay away from UCLA properties for two weeks.

When asked how he would handle the pro-Palestinian student protests on Wednesday, Frenk did not respond. Instead, University of California System President Michael Drake stepped in, saying, “Our job is to try to keep these people safe.” … It’s a daily activity for us.

Frenk offered no details in response to a question about how he would ensure students feel safe on campus. He said his goal was to protect the right to free speech while making clear that UCLA would not tolerate harassment or discrimination.

“If all of this is clear, I think we can move forward,” he said. “For me, that’s the basic ingredient to guarantee that feeling of security.”

Another challenge facing UCLA’s new head is skepticism among Republican lawmakers about whether the school is appropriately handling accusations of anti-Semitism on campus.

Last month, outgoing Chancellor Block was called before Congress alongside leaders of Rutgers and Northwestern universities. to explain how they handled the pro-Palestinian protests.

On Wednesday, Frenk spoke at length about how institutions of higher education across the country are facing an erosion of trust, not only from lawmakers but also from the general public. He said he hopes to revive that waning confidence with a focus on what UCLA can offer the world. He said colleges and universities can and should be “the primary sources of opportunity, social mobility and…talent” for society.

UCLA in particular, he said, can offer cutting-edge research highlighting advanced health care techniques.

“We should never lose sight of the incredible value that universities add to the well-being of society…we must use that value that we add and continue to defend it as a way to earn trust,” Frenk said. “Trust is not received, it is earned. »

The new chancellor’s announcement comes shortly before UCLA’s graduation ceremonies, which take place this weekend and are expected to spark more protests.

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