The San Juan Daily Star
UPR president opposes university reform bill, says it would jeopardize accreditation
By The Star Staff
University of Puerto Rico (UPR) President Luis A. Ferrao Delgado said Thursday that he opposes university reform legislation introduced by Speaker of the House of Representatives Rafael Hernández Montañez at the request of the Multisectoral Commission for University Reform (CMRU by its Spanish initials).
Ferrao said House Bill (HB) 1314 would put at risk the accreditation of the three UPR main campuses and eight institutional units because it does not provide the economic resources necessary for its execution.
“In the context of the criteria of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education [MSCHE], several of the proposals contained in the legislation put at risk the funds and the accreditation of the UPR that, in the month of June 2018, after an extensive process, the university was able to obtain for a term of eight years for the entire system,” Ferrao highlighted in a presentation before the House Education Committee.
Ferrao, accompanied by UPR Dean of Academic Affairs Sonia Balet Dalmau, pointed out to the committee that in particular, HB 1314 “does not comply with MSCHE standards six and seven.”
Both officials highlighted that the MSCHE is clear with its standards and the bill does not take into consideration that any substantial change to the university system must be governed by the policies and procedures established by the MSCHE for institutions.
“For example, on its informative website (MSCHE) explains the steps to follow when an institution wishes to make substantial changes in its structure,” Ferrao told the committee. “The Middle States classifies the change in the legal status or in the form of control of a university as a ‘substantive change’ and not only requires that it be previously reported, but that there is a prior visit by a team from accreditation and a payment in the amount of $18,500.”
Balet warned that if the bill is approved, it would imply a legal change in the management structure of UPR and “by not having followed the indications established by the MSCHE, the accreditation that the institution has defended with so much effort could be put at risk.”
The officials also warned that the bill would leave the UPR president devoid of autonomy to develop and implement institutional plans and select personnel, among other functions for which any authorization from the university’s governing board would be required, “which also puts at risk the accreditation,” Ferrao said.
Ferrao in his deposition also highlighted that he “would support any university reform bill that brings more funds to the UPR and strengthens university autonomy.”
“That bill is not 1314,” he said.
However, UPR Mayagüez Prof. Juan Carlos Martínez Cruzado, UPR Río PIedras Physical Sciences Prof. Ethel Ríos Orlandi, and the student representative of the UPR Medical Sciences Campus, Yesenia Acevedo Rivera, supported the legislation. The three are members of the CMRU.
“In an attempt to discredit the work of the CMRU and the university community, UPR’s upper management has alleged that if House Bill 1314 is approved, the accreditation of the UPR units by the MSCHE would be jeopardized,” they said in a statement. “The CMRU carried out a detailed study of the different requirements of this agency and found that, far from endangering the accreditations by the MSCHE, the measure under discussion substantially strengthens the capacity of the UPR to meet the accrediting entity’s expectations and requirements.”
Martínez Cruzado dismissed Ferrao’s assertions about the governance structure. He said HB 1314 establishes a clearly articulated and transparent governance structure that describes the roles, responsibilities and the necessary accountability by a university council, the university board, the president, the chancellors, the academic senates, administrative boards, deanships and the department or program directorates.
“The priorities that the upper management of the UPR have shown with their actions are worrisome,” the CMRU representatives said, “when they have dedicated much more time and effort to opposing the consideration of House Bill 1314 by the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico, instead of advocating for the allocation of a stable and robust budget that allows UPR to fully fulfill its mission and future development.”