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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Second UPR probe contradicts findings that RCM chancellor violated internal processes

UPR Medical Sciences Campus Chancellor Ilka Ríos Reyes

By The Star Staff

A second probe by a University of Puerto Rico (UPR) investigator into a controversy around Medical Sciences Campus (RCM by its Spanish initials) Chancellor Ilka Ríos Reyes refuted a 2022 probe that had concluded the official violated internal processes when she reached a settlement with a 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 actions against Ríos, a source familiar with the situation said. The report is addressed to Ortiz and Alfonso Fernández Debs, head of the 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 a 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 did not have the authority to reach a settlement because that responsibility belonged to the UPR president. Because of Fraga Meléndez’s findings, UPR President Luis Ferrao Delgado asked for Ríos’ resignation, only to appoint her again as chancellor a year later. The source said Ferrao Delgado, who has declined to speak on the matter publicly, decided to issue written remarks upon learning of Miranda López’s conclusions.

Miranda López said Ríos did not act in contravention of internal regulations or against the presidency. She agreed with the opinion of then-UPR legal adviser Marcos Román López to refute claims that, in violation of regulations, Ríos tried to go over the opinion of a promotions committee in the School of Medicine.

“Even if we may be in disagreement with the determinations or management of this situation by Dr. Ríos, the truth is that her actions occurred within her functions as a chancellor, the maximum academic and administrative authority of the Medical Sciences Campus,” the report stated.

Ríos had to reach a settlement with the young medical student who had failed several courses in her first year and also in her second year, or risk a lawsuit, because the School of Medicine had failed to provide required assistance that the student needed because of her age, documents obtained by the STAR showed.

Following the terms of the transaction, Ríos allowed the gifted student, who had been accepted at the School of Medicine when she was 14, to drop the courses she had failed and to take others. A document obtained by the STAR from the RCM showed that Ríos authorized the student as part of the transaction to drop the courses and had not authorized changes to her grades, as had been alleged.

Román López said in documents that he learned about the student’s situation when he was informed by Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Hilton Franqui, who wanted to know about an arrangement reached with the student, who failed her first year of medical school and had been allowed to repeat it. Franqui informed Román López that the student had also failed her second year.

Román López said that when he requested the student’s file, he found out that the school’s Promotion Committee had said nothing could be done about the student’s grade after she failed her first year, but that the Office of the President had reached an agreement to allow her to repeat the first year. However, he also noted that the school had failed to provide the student with the help she needed to cope with her coursework. He said the school’s psychologist told him that “the girl’s rights had been violated” and that the school did not execute any of the recommendations he had made.

An agreement had been reached with the student and her parents in February of 2021, and Román López believed the medical school had violated that agreement. Román López also said he believed the February 2021 agreement was valid for the rest of the student’s years at the school.

The school’s Promotion Committee, which evaluates such situations, had an impasse over the issue.

Román López said he spoke with Ríos about his concerns regarding a prolonged litigation and Ríos met with the parents of the student. The parties reached an agreement similar to the one reached in February 2021 with then-Chancellor Segundo Rodríguez. The new agreement included a waiver of responsibility and was signed July 7, 2022.

On Wednesday, students and faculty launched a short protest against Ríos’ appointment, which became effective Sept. 1 after the UPR governing board confirmed her. The protesters believe Ríos put the School of Medicine’s accreditation at risk with her actions.

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