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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

New course offerings directive may threaten many UPR profs’ jobs

UPR Interim President Mayra Olavarría Cruz

By The Star Staff

About 47% of the estimated 3,000 University of Puerto Rico (UPR) professors could lose their jobs July 1 under a new directive issued by UPR Interim President Mayra Olavarría Cruz regulating course offerings, the Puerto Rican Association of University Professors (APPU by its Spanish initials) charged Wednesday.

The directive calls for tenured professors to teach courses next semester unless they can’t provide or are not qualified to provide a specific course.

“There are instructions in the document stating that course offerings will be made without considering temporary or professors under contract,” APPU President Ángel Rodríguez told the STAR.

Tenured professors that do not have a full working load of classes will be required to teach classes in other university units to reach a full-time load of classes.

“If I teach in Cayey, I may have to go to Mayagüez to teach a class,” Rodríguez said.

A document directed by Olavarría to all chancellors titled “Criteria for the Programming of Undergraduate Registration,’’ a copy of which was obtained by the STAR, establishes guidelines for course offerings that would severely limit classes due to budget cuts but would also result in some 1,400 professors losing their jobs, the APPU president said.

The document says the first step in academic programming is to ensure that the course being offered is part of the curricular sequence of a specific undergraduate program.

Before offering a second section for a specific course, officials must ensure that the first section of the course is filled to maximum capacity. The second section must have at least 50% of the maximum capacity.

If there is a need for more sections of a specific course, the students will have to take the classes in other units or campuses of the university system. The first option before programming additional sections should be to increase the capacity of the sections already programmed, the document says.

To open a course that is not in the curricular sequence, officials must ensure that it is filled to at least 75% of the maximum capacity. The course must be “self-paying,” or generate enough income to cover the salary of the professor.

“Course offerings and the corresponding class schedule for the next semester will be done without taking into account temporary or part-time contracts” unless the specific university unit plans can cover the expense with funds from its recovery account salaries, purchase of time or with external funds, the document states.

“The payroll of external teaching contracts will be contingent upon proving that the demand cannot be met with the (tenured) professors from the unit or from another unit in the university system,” the document reads.

Courses with more than one section must be scheduled in such a way as to offer the greatest number of alternatives during the week, including Saturdays.

The chancellor must anticipate the possibility that some professors may not have a full load of classes as course sections with a small number of students are not allowed.

“If possible, the chancellor will coordinate so that the professors who have the preparation and the ability to do so, teach courses in other faculties or units of the university system where there is a need for teaching resources to cover the demand,” the document states.

The news of the directive took many professors by surprise.

“I just got this document. I will not have a job by the end of the month and may end up filing for bankruptcy,” one professor said under condition of anonymity. The professor noted that in 2017 after the hurricane hit Puerto Rico, he paid debts using credit cards because the university was not paying him. He is still paying off the credit cards, he said.

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