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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Fiscal board wants action, not plans, from UPR



Financial Oversight and Management Board Executive Director Robert Mujica

By The Star Staff


Financial Oversight and Management Board Executive Director Robert Mujica said Wednesday that the talks with the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) go beyond the issue of bonuses for non-teaching employees.


Mujica said at a press conference that UPR has to ensure that resources are properly invested for the benefit of students and take into account demographic changes and declining enrollment.


“We’re continuing conversations with the university about that, identifying both the resources and also the terms themselves,” the oversight board official said. “There were conversations as recent as yesterday. I think the talks are continuing, so hopefully we can come to an agreement that is fair for the university. To be clear, we have worked with the government to increase the budget by about 20 percent for the university this year, more than $102 million.”


The federal entity created under the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act, commonly known as PROMESA, has not yet issued a final determination on the payment of a $3,000 bonus to members of the Brotherhood of Non-Teaching Exempt Employees.


“We also spent eight months working with the university and others interested in addressing the issues facing UPR in the future,” Mujica continued. “The problem with the employees is important. We need to deal with the faculty as well. A priority of ours is to bring money into the classroom and address some of the challenges that UPR faces, that many universities face and many public universities are facing. Challenges related to demographic changes. The UPR has faced a 32% decline in enrollment and part of our conversations with the university has been these four strategic initiatives designed to improve class offerings. They are designed to improve how students get classes and make sure they have classes available, make sure their credits transfer, and make sure the offerings are what students need. So they are choosing the UPR over other university systems.”


“So we’re talking about the issue related to non-teaching staff and that contract and we’re working on that,” he said. “But we’re also working on other things to make sure that the additional funds we’ve set aside for the university are being put into the classroom and result in changes. Because as the environment changes, as the economy changes, universities in general need to make changes to fit the needs of students, and that’s what we’re focusing on.”


Asked if the oversight board was going to enter into the academic offering, Mujica said the board is not going to make decisions for the university about what course offerings are needed.


“And again, that’s why we’ve had a lot of conversations both with the governing board, the president of the university, and others. The point is, they’re going to have to make those decisions and make those changes,” he said. “But we just want to make sure that those conversations are actually happening and to the extent that we’re going to add additional resources, let’s not add them to the status quo. So let’s make sure that by adding additional resources, we’re putting them in the places where they’re needed the most and also where they help with the academic mission, which is the primary goal of the university, the academic mission.”


He said UPR doesn’t need more plans, it needs more execution on the things he had mentioned.


“And if resources are being issued, we want to make sure that the resources are there to help assist in the transformation that simply needs to happen,” Mujica said. “So we’re not going to tell the university what the academic offerings are [going to be], but they should use data to make these determinations. What are students looking for? Is that aligned with your offerings in a number of ways? Make sure they’re aligned, and then move forward. So, you have to stimulate the conversation, have the resources set aside for that purpose. But we’re not making those determinations. Those determinations need to be made.”

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