RCM chancellor to keep the doors open, focus on future despite protests
By The Star Staff
UPR Medical Sciences Campus (RCM) Chancellor Ilka Ríos Reyes, who took over Sept. 1, said Sunday she will maintain her open doors policy and continue with her work to ensure the operational and program efficiency of the campus despite protests by a small group of students against her appointment.
Ríos hopes a repeat of last week’s protests does not occur. She complained that protesters are bent on only listening to “one side of the” dispute over her appointment and are refusing to evaluate the entire picture, including evidence that she engaged in no wrongdoing. Her opponents have charged that Ríos violated norms when she reached a settlement with a medical student who had enrolled as a minor and had failed several courses. She did so to avoid a lengthy litigation because the Medical School failed to provide help to the student.
For now, Ríos is trying to focus on the future of the island’s key medical campus. For instance, RCM has a program called RCM Vital whose aim is to educate and provide free health care.
She remains firm about having an entirely new neurosurgery program up and running by July 2024. The program lost the accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), effective June 2022, due to a deficit in funding and equipment. The radiological technology program is on pause because it will be turned into a four-year program.
Ríos also recently made new appointments to positions, including Lourdes Soto de Laurido as head of the Health Professional Schools, Natalio Debs as dean of the School of Medicine, Carmen Cadilla as academic affairs dean, Anabelle Segarra as research dean, Aileen Torres as Dental Medicine School dean and María Castro as Nursery School dean. Pablo Rodríguez was appointed head of the Department of Surgery and Ivonne Jiménez now heads the new Internal Medicine Department.
The new chancellor said she has the full support of UPR President Luis Ferrao Delgado for the job even though he has not come out publicly to defend her, and attributed recent protests against her confirmation to a small group of opponents on an estimated 4,000-student campus that insists upon spreading lies about her.
On Friday, Ríos reportedly interrupted a meeting with the staff and students to order protesters to put down certain banners calling for her resignation. She also reportedly complained because the banner did not recognize her academic credentials.
In response to a STAR question, Ríos said the Coordinating Safety Board had established that protesters were not going to be inside the meeting. She also said UPR regulations specifically prohibit the interruption of staff or class meetings. She denied she ever ordered the protesters to leave.
“I have been at the RCM for years and I have never seen this kind of behavior,” Ríos said. “Our campus is different from others. It is more professional. There has always been communication.”
Public opposition to Ríos’ confirmation stemming from the controversy around the incident with the student has been spearheaded by former dean Humberto Guiot, former Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Hilton Franqui, former UPR President Mayra Olavarría, and former Medical Sciences Campus Chancellor Carlos Ortiz. Guiot and Olavarría reportedly participated in Friday’s protest.
A report, a copy of which was obtained by the STAR, of a probe conducted by Maritza Miranda López, a notary public and lawyer, determined that Ríos did not violate any norms in reaching a settlement with the minor student, because she was the highest authority at the campus. The report refuted the findings reached by Alondra Fraga Meléndez, a UPR investigator, who concluded in 2022 that Ríos violated internal processes.