• The San Juan Daily Star

Governing board takes a pass on irregular appointments at UPR Carolina

The University of Puerto Rico governing board says the matter of intervening at UPR Carolina, where a campus provost is said to have violated regulations in the appointment of several deans, should be handled by the university system’s interim president.

By The Star Staff

The governing board of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) has chosen not to intervene at UPR Carolina, where sources say Provost José Meza Pereira has violated university regulations in the appointment of several different deans, arguing such a task should be handled by UPR Interim President Mayra Olavarría Cruz.

Last week, Meza Pereira issued letters seeking recommendations to appoint new academic and administrative deans following public denouncements that he appointed individuals to those positions who were unqualified and kept them there for over a year without seeking the approval of the academic senate or UPR’s governing board.

Although UPR regulations, specifically Section 37, articles 1.4, 2.3 and 3.1, clearly require the governing board to ratify appointments to deanship positions made by various chancellors, the board said through its communication official that it is up to Olavarría Cruz to intervene in such matters.

“The board deals with them only through referral from the presidency,” the STAR was told.

Governing board member Herman Cestero said he referred the situation at the UPR Carolina campus to chairwoman of the UPR governing board, Mayda Velasco, along with supporting documentation about the appointments.

“We were supposed to have an extraordinary meeting to deal with several issues but nothing has happened,” he told the STAR.

Last week, at a meeting of professors, Meza Pereira praised Gregory Bermúdez Rivera’s performance as interim dean of administrative affairs even though he does meet job requirements but criticized José Ayala, who is the dean of academic affairs, because payments of certain incentives to professors had not been made.

Professors are worried that Ayala may stay on as dean of academic affairs because “he is inaccessible, has appointed individuals to teach classes who do not have the green light of department committees and removed the head of continuing education, Miguel Pérez, from the position, causing great concern,” a source close to the situation said. Ayala, an assistant professor, also does not meet job requirements, the source noted.

UPR regulations state that when there is a vacancy for a dean position, the provost must inform the Academic Senate or the faculty, or the department in question, of the vacancy within 60 days. If a dean does not head a specific department, then the notification must be made to the Academic Senate, which has 30 days to appoint a consultation committee.

The provosts must also seek the approval of the governing board and the UPR president for the appointment of all deans. The governing board has 60 days to approve the appointment.

In the 15 months that Meza Pereira has been provost at UPR Carolina, he has appointed six deans without the required consultations.

The appointment of Bermúdez Rivera as administrative affairs interim dean has raised serious concern because he does not have a college degree but has worked at UPR for 24 years in different positions. Bermúdez Rivera was appointed for the period running from July 7, 2020 to Aug. 31, 2020. Nonetheless, after the over one-month period finished, Meza Pereira allowed Bermúdez Rivera to remain in the position for more than a year “in a clandestine and illegitimate manner,” a source said.

Meza Pereira also appointed Jonathan Ramos Scharrón, a professor, as interim dean of the Hotel and Restaurant Administration School, and Ana Rivera Soto, who was interim registrar, as interim dean of Student Affairs.

Ayala, the dean of academic affairs, replaced Rafael Méndez, a natural sciences professor and department director who had also been appointed in an interim fashion without the consultation of the Academic Senate. Soto replaced Alexy M. Márquez, who was only on the job from February to September of this year. Until the public denunciations, none of the appointments were reported to the Academic Senate at UPR Carolina.

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