RCM chancellor vows to stay on after UPR president asks for her resignation
By Richard Gutiérrez
University of Puerto Rico (UPR) Medical Sciences Campus (RCM) Chancellor Ilka Ríos Reyes told the STAR on Monday that UPR President Luis Ferrao Delgado had asked for her resignation “to ensure a healthy institutional climate,” but she declined the request, saying that only the UPR governing board can compel her to step down.
Earlier in the day, a coalition of former RCM students and faculty came out in support of Ríos, as a counterbalance of sorts against vociferous protests calling for her resignation.
Protesting students and faculty contend that Ríos poses a danger to the credibility of the university because, they say, as interim chancellor she changed a 15-year-old medical school student’s grade as part of an arrangement made between the RCM and the young student’s parents.
Ríos reached an agreement, similar to one made by former RCM chancellor Segundo Rodríguez, to avoid a lawsuit over the university’s alleged failure to provide the girl with counseling services to which she was entitled as a minor.
The STAR has previously reported, meanwhile, that the established facts of the situation do not establish any wrongdoing by Ríos. A document from the Registrar’s Office shows Ríos allowed the student to drop several courses and did not authorize a change of grades.
For now though, the protests against the chancellor’s appointment show no signs of abating.
“Everyone knows that she manipulated the grades of a student in medical school,” Dr. América Facundo, an associate professor at the UPR School of Medicine, told the STAR on Monday as picketing at the RCM resumed after protesters opted over the weekend not to participate in conflict mediation. “We cannot allow that to happen, because we would lose credibility with the people of Puerto Rico. The people of the island want professionals who have studied hard, not people whose grades have been given to them.”
Previous reporting by the STAR on the incident involving the 15-year-old medical student noted that university documentation contradicted the assertion that Ríos, who was the interim RCM chancellor last year, changed the student’s grades. Meanwhile, a second probe by UPR refuted a 2022 probe that had concluded the official violated internal processes when she reached a settlement with the medical student, who was a minor and had failed several courses. The report, which was kept hidden but of which the STAR obtained a copy, was conducted by Maritza Miranda López, a notary public and lawyer hired by former RCM Chancellor Carlos Ortiz late last year to determine if there should be disciplinary action taken against Ríos, a source familiar with the situation said. The report is addressed to Ortiz and Alfonso Fernández Debs, head of the university’s Legal Advisers Office.
Miranda López disagreed with the findings reached by Alondra Fraga Meléndez, a UPR investigator, who concluded in 2022 that Ríos violated internal processes and acted unilaterally when she reached a settlement with the parents of the 15-year-old medical student to avoid a lengthy litigation against the campus for failing to provide psychological and other aid to the student. Fraga Meléndez said Ríos had no authority to reach a settlement because that responsibility belonged to the UPR president. Because of Fraga Meléndez’s findings, Ferrao Delgado asked for Ríos’ resignation, only to appoint her again as chancellor a year later (Ríos assumed the post officially on Sept. 1).
Regardless of those findings, the protesters are still fighting for Ríos’ resignation. Facundo insists that none of the facts in the aforementioned account are true.
“What the second lawyer [Miranda López] said is that it was not the interim chancellor’s job to take action against Ilka Ríos because the conduct which she exhibited was as chancellor, and the boss of the chancellors is the university’s president; he was the one who ordered the investigation,” Facundo told the STAR. “The president asked the interim chancellor to take disciplinary action because of the investigation’s findings ordered by him!”
“As a result of that investigation he fired Ilka Ríos, in fact gave her the chance to submit her resignation so that she wasn’t affected, but in reality she was fired because of the result of this investigation,” the medical school professor said. “We are not ignoring the truth. We know what happened. We are basing our information on the investigation that has already been made.”
The previous RCM chancellor, Rodríguez, had also reached an agreement with the girl, but there was no protest as a result. Facundo said they were two different things.
“He [Rodríguez] acted within the parameters of the law because of the student’s young age, while Dr. Ilka Ríos acted on her own accord -- no communication with the president at all,” she said.