Frenk’s choice to leave UM before the centennial is shocking

Julio Frenk // Courtesy University of Miami

By: Katie Karlson and Ethan Mannello

UM recently announced that President Julio Frenk would be stepping down immediately as he prepares to take over as Chancellor of UCLA in January 2025.

Frenk’s decision to leave is shocking to many in the UM community as he left without warning and without a solidified president in place for the school’s 100th anniversary year.

After centering so many of his plans around the centennial year, Frenk should have seen UM and his projects through.

It was his steady hand that led the university through the pandemic and created the Ever Brighter campaign, which was set to be completed next year.

According to the website, the campaign has raised at least $2 billion of its $2.5 billion goal, but Frenk will be abandoning his keystone project before its completion, leaving much of the community hanging as it transitions to its centennial celebrations.

“I don’t understand why he would leave so abruptly,” said Celena Rivard, a rising senior majoring in marketing, “especially with our 100-year anniversary coming up.”

Knowledge of Frenk leaving and the hiring process was kept from everyone because of the University of California Board of Regents hiring process.

According to JoNel Newman, the chair of the faculty senate at UM, this process requires them to keep any information confidential until a decision is made, therefore almost all of the UM community was in shock when UCLA made the announcement.

“I still can’t believe it,” said Tyler Cahill, a rising junior and architecture major. “I figured we would at least hear something, but for UCLA to just drop it was shocking.”

In his statement to UCLA, Frenk stated his excitement about “returning to the public sector to lead one of the top research universities in the world “ during such a “crucial moment for higher education.”

UCLA had a difficult year managing pro-Palestinian protests on campus, and the university will need a strong leader willing to address campus concerns in order to thrive. Managing UCLA and its intense political environment will be far more difficult than what Frenk encountered at UM.

There is no doubt that during the pandemic Frenk’s background in public health was an advantage for UM. However, the protests and clashes with police on UCLA’s campus are vastly different from the environment seen at UM.

Events such as those seen at UCLA need to be addressed by the university’s leadership. Frenk was rarely a prominent influence on UM’s campus and UM has a poor history of addressing campus events. How Frenk chooses to handle the conflict at UCLA will be central to his success.

Frenk may not have been a strong presence on UM’s campus, but under his leadership UM flourished and joined the Association of American Universities, a group of 69 select research universities, including schools like Harvard and Columbia.

Frenk was very valuable to the UM community and we will feel his loss, especially as the community approaches our centennial. His transition to UCLA may have come as a surprise, but we wish him luck and hope the best for his future.

It is still hard not to feel the sting though, as Frenk has left the university with a massive question to answer as a year of celebration approaches.

For the time being, UM CEO Joe Echevarria will assume Frenk’s role as president but Frenk’s unexpected exit will loom over the university as we prepare for its centennial.