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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Settlement was reached with student at center of Ríos’ appointment as RCM chancellor

Ilka Ríos Reyes is scheduled to take over as chancellor of the UPR Medical Sciences Campus on Sept. 1.

By The Star Staff

Upon the advice of lawyers, University of Puerto Rico (UPR) Medical Sciences Campus (RCM by its Spanish initials) chancellor-designate Ilka Ríos Reyes, who is slated to officially assume the post on Sept. 1, reached a settlement with a 15-year-old medical student who had failed several courses or risk a lawsuit because the School of Medicine had failed to provide required assistance the student needed because of her age, documents obtained by the STAR showed.

Following the terms of the settlement, Ríos allowed the gifted student, who had been accepted at RCM when she was 14 years old, to drop the courses she had failed and to audit others as part of a transaction to avoid a long litigation for the campus. A document obtained by the STAR from UPR-RCM showed that as part of the transaction, Ríos authorized the student to drop the courses and had not authorized changes to her grades, as had been alleged.

Some 300 RCM workers, including the Medical School staff, constituting a small percentage of the campus -- which has 1,141 professors, 1,231 non-teaching employees and more than 2,000 students -- have objected to the appointment of Ríos as chancellor by the UPR governing board. The group of workers says Marcos Antonio Román López, a former RCM legal adviser, said he learned about the student’s situation when he was informed by professor Hilton Franqui Rivera, who wanted to know about a settlement reached with the student, who failed her first year of medical school and had been allowed to repeat it. Franqui Rivera 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 grades 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 he contacted the school’s psychologist, identified as Luis Sánchez Caso, who informed the lawyer 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 2021, and Román López had observed that the Medical School had violated that agreement. Román López also said he believed the February 2021 agreement, which was made because the student failed her first year, was also valid for the second year. The school’s Promotion Committee, which evaluates such situations, had an impasse over the issue.

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

In a letter dated Aug. 2, 2022, Ríos asked the RCM registrar to allow the student to drop some of the courses in her second year that she had taken in the 2021-2022 academic year, and to take three courses. The Promotion Committee in a letter dated Aug. 5, had voted to expel the student, who was informed of the decision.

The father of the student, Alejandro Franco Fernández, charged that following the July 7, 2022 transaction, three professors, Franqui Rivera, Joalex Antongiorgi and Adelaida Ortiz “manipulated the truth,” causing damage to his family.

“They engaged in an act of insubordination with the Chancellor, who had the capacity to do what she did,” said Franco Fernández, who is a lawyer.

He also charged that Carlos Ortiz, a former medical school chancellor, and UPR President Luis Ferrao Delgado have prevented the execution of the agreement.

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