• The San Juan Daily Star

UPR Governing Board approves disputed appointment of dean at UPR Carolina

The University of Puerto Rico Governing Board has approved the appointment of José Luis Ayala as UPR Carolina academic dean despite what sources say are valid questions about his qualifications.

By The Star Staff

Despite questions about his qualifications for the job, the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) Governing Board has approved the appointment of UPR Carolina interim academic dean José Luis Ayala for the position on a permanent basis.

Governing board member Jorge Valentín, who had previously raised objections to the appointment, abstained from the vote. Another member, Herman Cestero, who had objected to the appointment, was unable to vote because he got cut off from the transmission.

Members of the board did not answer emails from the STAR seeking an explanation for voting in favor of Ayala.

The appointment was made by UPR Carolina Campus Chancellor José Meza following a process that critics say violated university rules.

In a document read by the STAR, Ubaldo Córdova, executive vice president for Academic Affairs & Research at UPR and a member of governing board, told UPR Interim President Mayra Olavarría Cruz that Meza was recommending Ayala and that the recommendation was made on Dec. 13.

“On December 13, we know for a fact that he was interviewing José Martínez, a faculty member in the Criminal Justice Department, for the position of academic dean,” one of the sources said.

The sources said Meza did not follow the process established by UPR rules because he did not consult the university community. Dec. 10 was the deadline for submitting candidates for the position. From there on, Meza was supposed to interview candidates and consult with the university community by making available the working plans of the different candidates.

“But he did not do that, he just went ahead and submitted Ayala’s confirmation without the consultation,” one of the sources said. “On top of that, all of this has been done while everyone is on vacation and no one is paying attention.”

The document recommending Ayala went for approval before an academic affairs committee that is part of the governing board, which voted in favor of the appointment despite concerns raised by Valentín. The academic dean has allegedly appointed professors to teach classes for which they are not qualified and has ignored objections raised by department heads.

The appointment of Ayala has also raised concerns because he allegedly does not have the “notable academic experience” or discipline required for the job.

Ayala’s file, which was leaked publicly, shows he changed majors three times after entering college in 1997. He was first in interior design, then in graphic arts and then in commercial advertising before finally reclassifying in the area of professional improvement in 2005. The file shows 22 grade Cs, one D, eight F’s, at least six dropped classes and seven repeated courses. The Fs were in some basic courses.

Ayala has a master’s degree from Atlantic University College and obtained a presidential scholarship to study at the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain despite his grades. The presidential scholarship, which he received while Antonio García Padilla was UPR president, was not subject to public scrutiny at the time. The presidential scholarship is to subsidize studies in areas that are difficult to recruit.

At the Jan. 25 meeting, the governing board also amended the appointments regulations to give chancellors 30 days to submit to the governing board their appointments for approval. The board then will have another 30 days to ratify the appointment.

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