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Heard On Sundial: UM President on Reopening, FDLE Transparency, Voter Registration Deadline

University of Miami via Miami Herald
University of Miami President Julio Frenk, confers with, from left, Drs. Dipen Parekh, Tanira Ferreira, David Lang, UHealth Emergency Manager Vincent Torres, back right, and UM Miller School of Medicine Dean Henri Ford, right, on COVID response.

On this Thursday, July 16, episode of Sundial:


University Of Miami President On Reopening


This fall, parents and college students will decide whether they will return to campus or take classes fully online. Students in South Florida, the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the state, are waiting to hear plans from their school. 

The University of Miami announced it will resume in-person classes with mandatory testing but will offer students the option to take classes online. 


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“What I’ve been trying to emphasize is that this is not a dichotomous situation where it’s open or shut,” said Dr. Julio Frenk, the President of the University of Miami and the former Secretary of Health of Mexico. “Even for the students who show up on campus, this is going to be a very different experience.”

We spoke with Dr. Frenk about the school’s reopening plans, how the pandemic has impacted their finances, and whether we can expect collegiate sports this fall.

Political Pressure To Reopen Schools


On Wednesday, Palm Beach County became the first school district in South Florida to announce their plans for reopening. The Palm Beach County School Board unanimously voted to start the school year online and to postpone the start date to later in August. 


This decision has not come without scrutiny, especially from state lawmakers. When the county’s public health director recommended that schools remain closed, she received pressure from the state surgeon general to stop. Gov. Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corocoran have also called on school districts to remain open five days a week. 


“Can we have some kind of a hybrid system? Maybe, but only once we get our numbers down and cool down this outbreak,” said Dr. Aileen Marty, infectious disease expert at FIU and a member of Miami-Dade’s coronavirus task force.


We spoke with Dr. Marty about her concerns for the plans to reopen schools and the political pressure she’s faced in her position. 


Criminal Justice Transparency in FDLE


In 2018, Florida lawmakers passed a bill that would require the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to publish a database of information that could expose systemic biases. With this law, many believed Florida’s criminal justice system would become the most transparent in the country.


Two years later, this database has yet to come to fruition. The information would be especially useful now as some prosecutors are seeking to release more people awaiting trial because of the pandemic. And as elections come this November, there is still little data for voters to consider.


“The idea of this law was to really open up a lot of data so that lawmakers could best identify what laws needed improvement,” said Andrew Pantazi, who has been following the story for The Florida Times-Union.


“The more [Florida’s legislators] looked at the criminal justice system, the more they saw that there was not a good data system set up that allowed for this sort of comprehensive comparisons across different parts of the state.” 


We spoke with Pantazi about why the department has failed to make this database a reality.


Voter Registration Deadline


Nationwide, requests for mail-in ballots have exploded. More than 300,000 mail-in ballots have been sent out in Broward County alone over the past two weeks. Next Monday, July 20, is the deadline to register to vote in Florida before the primary elections on Aug. 18. 


“If you want a sense of what’s going to be on [the ballot], you can go to your county’s Supervisor of Elections website and they generally have a pretty easy tool where you can plug in your name, your address, your date of birth, and then you can get a look at your sample ballot,” said Lance Dixon, WLRN’s Digital Editor.


We spoke with Dixon about the details South Floridians need before the registration deadline.

Chris knew he wanted to work in public radio beginning in middle school, as WHYY played in his car rides to and from school in New Jersey. He’s freelanced for All Things Considered and was a desk associate for CBS Radio News in New York City. Most recently, he was producing for Capital Public Radio’s Insight booking guests, conducting research and leading special projects at Sacramento’s NPR affiliate.