• The San Juan Daily Star

Ex-UPR president airs concerns about interim president’s background with stateside accrediting body

By The Star Staff

Former University of Puerto Rico (UPR) President José Saldaña has fired off a letter to the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) after the UPR’s governing board ignored his request for answers concerning the professional background of interim president Mayra Olavarría Cruz and the circumstances that led to her designation.

On Sunday, UPR board member Herman Cestero told the STAR that the board has also ignored his request for a probe and has not even circulated to other members a letter he wrote with his concerns about Olavarría Cruz’s background. The board scheduled a meeting for this Thursday without an agenda of matters to be discussed. Cestero said the board’s president, Emilio Colón, convened the meeting to allegedly choose a new board chairman.

Cestero, fellow board member Jorge Valentín and Saldaña have criticized the board’s election of Olavarría Cruz as interim or acting president because her resume not only shows that she does not have the administrative experience required for the job, but also indicates that she may have plagiarized research work.

Olavarría Cruz listed in her resume four research projects. But three of those projects are doctoral dissertations done by students and not by her. A 58-page list of dissertations done by students between 1988 to 1995 in the Psychology Department of the Social Sciences Faculty, lists Olavarría Cruz’s name as part of a committee of professors that evaluated three of the four research dissertations she listed in her resume, but she is not the actual researcher, the board members said.

Olavarría Cruz was elected interim president on Aug. 2 in a divided vote just two days after the governing board had agreed to appoint Valentín interim president for two weeks while the body searched for an interim president after two previous attempts had failed.

In the letter to Middle States, Saldaña asked the entity to evaluate the actions of the governing board.

“The irregular and erratic manner in which the president of the UPR Governing Board, Emilio Colón, led the dismissal of the previous president, Dr. Jorge Haddock – aside from his performance – and the authoritarian and odd manner in which he has carried on the process to select an acting president, has raised many questions as to his capacity to fulfill the responsibilities of his position,” Saldaña wrote.

After the failed attempts to select an acting president, the governing board “hastily and without any proper evaluation by the board members” chose Olavarría Cruz as acting president, the former UPR president wrote.

He enclosed stories written by the STAR on the subject, an editorial from another media outlet on the allegations raised against Olavarría Cruz and the letter written by Cestero.

“After waiting 7 days for a response to my letter to the UPR Board members … I have regretfully decided to raise a complaint with the MSCHE, so that you remind this Governing Board of the MSCHE Standard VII – Governance, Leadership, and Administration, as well as the importance of these guidelines, in order to maintain a fully accredited institution,” Saldaña’s letter dated Aug. 18 stated.

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