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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

UPR governing board votes to remove Ríos Reyes as RCM chancellor

Ilka Ríos Reyes

By The Star Staff

The University of Puerto Rico (UPR) governing board on Tuesday voted to remove Ilka Ríos Reyes from the position of chancellor of the UPR Medical Sciences Campus (RCM) at a time when the campus is the target of a probe by the commonwealth comptroller and a possible federal probe.

Ten board members voted in favor of removal.

Ríos said she received a letter from the comptroller’s office indicating that it is starting a probe into the possible diversion of public funds under the administration of former RCM Chancellor Segundo Rodríguez.

The comptroller’s office confirmed to the STAR that it is starting a probe into the RCM but did not reveal the nature of the investigation.

Ríos said she referred RCM employees to federal authorities for violations of federal laws, and that former federal prosecutor Osvaldo Carlo is helping her.

Ríos and another source said the diversion of public funds is one of the reasons individuals behind the movement to have her ousted are seeking to get her out of the picture in order to divert the probe.

UPR governing board member Hermán Cestero said the board decided to carry out a referendum vote to determine if Ríos should be removed.

Ríos has warned about the danger of the Middle State Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) confirming the instability on campus and insisted that choosing a new chancellor during the electoral ban next year would delay other important processes because he or she could not be appointed until January 2025, which would mean that eight deans in interim positions could not be confirmed either.

While Ríos said UPR President Luis Ferrao Delgado, who asked her to resign on Monday, told other media outlets that he did so because he was under pressure, she told the STAR that Ferrao’s job was also on the line and that he instead chose to “give them my head.”

For a week, students have been protesting at the campus against Ríos.

Right after Ferrao requested Ríos’ resignation, Ricardo Dalmau, the UPR governing board chairman, held a virtual meeting with each of the board members to determine if they were in favor of replacing the embattled RCM chancellor. Meanwhile, according to sources, the board is not going to discuss the controversy around Río at a public meeting slated for later this week.

Protesting students and faculty contend that Ríos poses a danger to the credibility of the university because, they say, as interim chancellor she changed a 15-year-old medical school student’s grade as part of an arrangement made between the RCM and the young student’s parents.

Ríos reached an agreement with the student, similar to one made by Rodríguez, the former RCM chancellor, to avoid a lawsuit over the university’s alleged failure to provide the girl with counseling services to which she was entitled as a minor.

The STAR has previously reported, meanwhile, that the established facts of the situation do not establish any wrongdoing by Ríos. A document from the Registrar’s Office shows Ríos allowed the student to drop several courses and did not authorize a change of grades.

Meanwhile, a probe by UPR that was conducted by Maritza Miranda López refuted a 2022 probe that had concluded Ríos violated internal processes when she reached a settlement with the medical student, who had failed several courses.

Also on Tuesday, Electrical and Irrigation Industry Workers Union (UTIER by its Spanish acronym) President Josué Mitjá expressed his support for the striking RCM students in their demand for Ríos’ resignation.

“We extend all our solidarity to the RCM students who continue to fight for transparency in the UPR’s processes,” Mitjá said in a written statement. “The UTIER has always been on the side of those who fight for justice and democracy in all the institutions of our country. The future of Puerto Rico rests in the hands of young people like the students of the Medical Scie

nces Campus.”

Late on Monday the island House of Representatives approved House Resolution 1032, which expresses the legislative body’s rejection of Ríos’ appointment as RCM chancellor, which took effect Sept. 1.

The appointment of Dr. Ilka Ríos has been surrounded by controversies due to several events and disagreements in the selection process and her previous history as interim chancellor,” at-large Rep. Héctor Ferrer Santiago said in a written statement. “Added to this is the unfortunate attitude of Dr. Ríos, who has created a climate of uncertainty and confrontation by not wanting to resign from the position.”

District 29 Rep. Gretchen Hau Irizarry stressed that “with a vote of 66.7 percent of the student enrollment in the Medical Sciences Campus and with 97.7 percent of the student body against, Dr. Ilka Ríos appears to put “her personal interest over the interest of the institution by ignoring the rejection of her appointment and the request for her resignation.”

District 35 Rep. Sol Higgins Cuadrado added that “the approval of the resolution reflects the commitment of the House of Representatives to preserving integrity and excellence in higher education in Puerto Rico above any consideration.”

“It is crucial that appointments at academic institutions meet the highest ethical and professional standards,” she said.

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