UPR Carolina provost said running afoul of due process with appointments
By The Star Staff
University of Puerto Rico (UPR) Carolina Campus provost José Meza Pereira has appointed deans in various departments in violation of norms and due process, according to documents and interviews conducted by the STAR.
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 and disconnection with matters involving the campuses. At press time, neither the governing board nor Meza Pereira had responded to requests for comment.
“Beyond the meetings the [governing] board has with the president and the president with the provosts, the contact with the university community is minimal,” a STAR source said. “At these meetings, with rare exceptions, each official presents reports on the data that is favorable to him and that gives the impression that he is productive, but they hide adverse situations.”
While the UPR president is an ex-officio member of all of the academic senates, which are the official organ of the university community at each campus, no UPR president has shown up at those meetings in years, the sources close to UPR Carolina said.
“This estrangement results in some provosts and their staff having ineffective management, making arbitrary decisions and keeping a working environment that does not promote productivity,” one of the sources said.
One such example is a problem that is occurring at UPR’s Carolina campus, the sources said, where Meza Pereira appointed deans to the different departments without consulting the campus academic senate.
The 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 UPR governing board and 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, the source said.
“In all cases, he sends an email to the staff on the same day he makes the appointment, which sometimes is made retroactively,” the source said. “At the same time, he has never officially informed the academic senate of the vacancies of the positions for dean. 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 provided documents to back up their claims. One of the situations that has alarmed some on 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,” a source said.
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 of dean. The letter written by Meza Pereira, a copy of which was obtained by the STAR, merely states that Bermúdez Rivera’s 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 the appointments have been taken to UPR Carolina’s academic senate, according to documents obtained by the STAR.
The sources say the UPR governing board is not paying attention to what provosts are doing. Recently, a UPR Medical Sciences Campus professor, who is also a member of the governing board, Lourdes Soto de Laurido, charged that two members of the governing board did not show up for an online visit by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education to that campus for its accreditation. The Medical School has already lost the accreditation for one of its departments.
The Middle States noted the lack of interest of two governing board members in participating in the important meeting. Soto de Laurido said one of the board members excused himself because he had a basketball game, while the other board member kept his camera off and did not answer questions.