Student rep to UPR board writes ‘ageist’ letter to members who seek Olavarría probe

By The Star Staff

Former University of Puerto Rico (UPR) President José Saldaña and at least one member of the UPR governing board are asking for an investigation into “a series of circumstances and facts” related to the designation of UPR Interim President Mayra Olavarría, including allegations of plagiarism.

Their actions caused the student representative to the board, Eliud Rivas, to fire off a letter to the governing board that board member Herman Cestero said was obviously addressed to him and to board member Jorge Valentín because of its “ageist” language.

“It seems unbelievable that people who are so old in age and who proclaim themselves wise by their lived experiences tarnish the name of the UPR, the board and its governor,” Rivas wrote. “They think they are doing the right thing to delegitimize someone or because they hold more power. The only thing they do is harm themselves without realizing it, harm the UPR and harm the already damaged image of the Governing Board.”

Cestero asked Rivas to stop being disrespectful, to avoid using UPR’s official email for personal attacks and to seek transparency. He criticized the governing board for “its hermetic silence” over the concerns raised against Olavarría.

UPR Governing Board President Emilio Colón did not answer requests for comments. Board member Mayda Velasco told the STAR that the board will not comment and that it was exploring possible legal action for defamation.

Saldaña in a letter to the governing board said Olavarría’s resume, a copy of which was obtained by the STAR, shows that she has been an associate professor at the UPR Medical Sciences Campus since 2015 and not a full-fledged tenured professor, as was required for the president position. He also expressed concern about her lack of administrative experience.

Puerto Rican University Professors Association President Ángel Rodríguez Rivera said that while the allegations are being raised by Saldaña, whom he described as part of the university’s conservative sector, they should be cleared up.

“Plagiarism is one of the worst things,” he said.

In response to a question, Rodríguez Rivera praised Olavarría for signing off on a 10% salary cut to employees in positions of trust who are making more than $100,000 a year. The move was one of her first actions as interim president.

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