• The San Juan Daily Star

UPR Carolina provost asked academic senate to greenlight appointments that breached norms

A UPR governing board member said he would be bringing the matter to the board’s attention.

By The Star Staff

Following a recent STAR report, University of Puerto Rico (UPR) Carolina Campus Provost José Meza Pereira sought the Academic Senate’s green light to ratify his appointments of several deans made in violation of norms and due process.

The UPR Carolina Academic Senate approved his request, which the STAR learned was criticized by at least one member, who noted that the request did not proceed further because the appointments were illegal.

UPR governing board member Herman Cestero told the STAR he would be bringing the matter to the board’s attention.

Meza Pereira’s actions have occurred under the noses of the UPR governing board and its president, in what sources have described as yet another example of the governing board’s inadequate supervision of campuses.

While the UPR president is an ex-officio member of each of the 11 campuses’ academic senates, a sitting president has not shown up at those meetings in years, the sources close to UPR Carolina said.

Because of the disconnect between the governing board and the campuses, Meza Pereria appointed deans to the different departments without consulting the UPR Carolina Academic Senate.

UPR regulations state that when there is a vacancy for a dean position, the provost in 60 days must inform the academic senate or the faculty, or department in question of the vacancy. If a dean does not head a specific department, then the notification must be made to the academic senate, which has 30 days to appoint a consultation committee.

The provosts must also seek the approval of the governing board and the UPR president for the appointment of all deans. The governing board has 60 days to approve the appointment.

In the 15 months that Meza Pereira has been provost at UPR Carolina, he has appointed six deans using the mechanism and without consulting.

“In all cases, he sends an email to the staff on the same day he makes the appointment, which sometimes is made retroactively. At the same time, he has never officially informed the academic senate of the vacancies of the positions for dean,” a source said. “He has never asked the academic senate for a consultation committee nor has he ever asked for a consultation committee for non-teaching staff impacted by the appointment of the deans.”

The sources backed their claims with documents. One of the situations that has alarmed the Carolina campus is the appointment of Gregory Bermúdez Rivera as interim dean of administrative affairs. Bermúdez Rivera was appointed for the period running from July 7, 2020 to Aug. 31, 2020. Nonetheless, after the one-month period finished, Meza Pereira allowed Bermúdez Rivera to remain in the position for more than a year “in a clandestine and illegitimate manner.”

While Bermúdez Rivera has been working in the university system for over 20 years, he does not have a formal college degree needed to occupy the position. The letter written by Meza Pereira, a copy of which was obtained by the STAR, merely states that his 24-year experience in different positions qualifies him for the job. The appointment, the sources said, is also illegal because the rules state that after 30 days, all interim appointments must go before the UPR governing board.

Meza Pereira also appointed Jonathan Ramos Scharrón, a professor, as interim dean of the Hotel and Restaurant Administration School; José Ayala, an assistant professor, as interim dean of academic affairs; and Ana Rivera Soto, who was interim registrar, as interim dean of student affairs. Ayala replaced Rafael Méndez, a natural sciences professor and department director, who had also been appointed in an interim fashion without the consultation of the academic senate. Soto replaced Alexy M. Márquez, who was only on the job from February to September of this year.

None of those appointments have been taken to the UPR Carolina academic senate, according to documents obtained by the STAR.

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