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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Saldaña: The less gov’t involvement in UPR presidential selection process the better

Former University of Puerto Rico President José Saldaña

By The Star Staff

Although La Fortaleza has said it is not intervening in the selection of a University of Puerto Rico (UPR) president, former UPR President José Saldaña said nonetheless that the governor should stay out of the process.

La Fortaleza, it is said, is intervening in the background. Saldaña, who believes UPR Arecibo Chancellor Carlos Andújar Rojas -- who submitted his application for the UPR presidency on Monday -- would be a better candidate for president than UPR Río Piedras Chancellor Luis Ferrao Delgado, said the governor must stay out of the process because an atmosphere of limitations awaits the new president, of great turmoil in the institutional climate and of constant conflicts that will test his character or lack of it.

“The institution that the new president will lead is one of those that benefited from the big, paternalistic government instituted by the [Popular Democratic Party] in the 1940s and 1950s, developing a pathological unit to function almost exclusively with funds from the welfare state; 70% of the current income of the institution are state funds while in the state universities of the nation the average of these funds is 20-30%,” Saldaña said. “Today, faced with the bankruptcy of the territory and having grown exponentially based on borrowing and without having developed a culture of substantial search for private funds, the institution is facing a fiscal crisis that will require fundamental changes. Changes that many in the institution do not want to recognize and unfortunately many of the cowardly administrators refuse to implement.”

In that regard, Saldaña said, whoever is elected president must have the guts to make cuts and be creative and find ways to raise revenues. He believes that because some campuses have very few students, the new president will have to consolidate campuses.

“On an island of 100 by 35 miles where most university campuses are within 15 to 20 minutes of each other, the current duplication of physical, administrative, and programmatic structures is not justified,” he said. “I do not believe that the option of administratively integrating some of these units will yield the anticipated or programmed benefits, so I believe that it will be necessary to eliminate some of them.”

He also said UPR must eliminate degrees or programs that are no longer relevant.

“There is also great inefficiency and waste of resources, not only fiscal, physical, and human, but there are also a large number of academic programs that, due to indifference, have not been updated in decades, that do not have the relevance they had at the time they were created,” Saldaña said. “There are also duplicate programs at the different campuses with little or no demand from students who perceive that they are not relevant to the world in which they will have to integrate upon graduation.”

He also said UPR has been negatively impacted by leftist ideologies and complained about Ferrao’s handling of the most recent UPR student strike. While the Puerto Rico Supreme Court has already said students do not have the right to strike, he said Ferrao signed an agreement to end the strike, allowing students to take over control of the university.

“Despite the fact that there are legal mechanisms for the participation of students, teachers and non-teachers in the discussion and decision-making at the different levels and academic forums, these groups have been granted -- de facto -- gradually practices and rights that were not contemplated in the laws of the country such as -- among others -- collective bargaining and the right to strike,” Saldaña said. “An example of this was the signing of a kind of collective agreement by students and the Río Piedras Campus chancellor Luis Ferrao, in order to end the last strike. At that time, in that de facto campus, the university co-government was implemented. This when the mechanism of going to court to end a vicious, costly and illegal strike was at hand.”

The former UPR president also called for an end to the non-confrontational policy that he described as one of those practices and policies that supposedly began as a genuine attempt by the university community to resolve conflicts through non-violence, but today its intention has been totally distorted, becoming an impediment to institutional governance.

“This misnamed policy of non-confrontation established during the presidency of Mr. Fernando Agrait in the ’80’s has served as a sacred cloak for unruly, anarchist elements, disrespectful of the law and the institutional order and the country to violate regulations, laws and rights galore,” Saldaña said. “Provoke, confront, challenge, insult and attack as you please and immediately invoke the non-confrontation policy so that they will not be arrested, prosecuted or have laws and regulations applied to them.”

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