• The San Juan Daily Star

Senate rejects proposed university reform in 13-7 vote

Independent Sen. José Vargas Vidot

By The Star Staff

The island Senate rejected in a 13-7 vote Thursday the proposed university reform that would create a more autonomous entity and eliminate the current University of Puerto Rico (UPR) governing board.

The measure required 14 votes for passage. One senator abstained from the vote.

Senate Bill 172 (SB 172) was filed by petition, which included a report from the Education, Tourism and Culture Committee and other committees recommending its approval.

Senate President José Luis Dalmau Santiago announced that he would be voting against the measure because it would complicate operations at the university.

“I have serious doubts about eliminating the law that has served the university for 54 years [in favor of] a mechanism that has some details that, far from fixing the problem, in my opinion, will complicate it,” he said.

The bill states that Puerto Rico wants to have a modern university. The proposed new law would have the fundamental objective of creating the necessary provisions so that the university students themselves can transform UPR in a creative, dynamic and continuous way.

Independent Sen. José Vargas Vidot said the bill was written by the university community itself with the goal of eliminating political interference and making UPR accessible.

“In 10 years, UPR has had eight presidents and four interim presidents, including the current interim president, Mayra Olavarría Cruz,” Vargas Vidot said. “How can a university sustain itself with this? Is that what we want as a university?”

UPR is slated to suffer cuts in its operations as part of the fiscal plan and will only get about $500 million over the next five years.

Sen. Ada García Montes, who chairs the Education, Tourism and Culture Committee, noted that “times demand a public policy that promotes greater economic and social development, including the UPR as a good [institution] of high social interest where innovative ideas [and] research are promoted in full compliance with the principles of fiscal autonomy and institutional freedom from partisan political interference.”

The measure calls for adequate public funding established by law with a fixed percentage of state revenues. The budget allocation to each campus unit would be made in a transparent manner based on metrics approved by the UPR governing board, and considering the recommendations made by the administrative boards.

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