• The Star Staff

UPR profs union: Transparency needed with $3.3 million tech licensing contract

By The Star Staff

The Puerto Rican Association of University Professors (APPU by its Spanish acronym) urged University of Puerto Rico (UPR) President Jorge Haddock on Thursday to answer various questions about a multi-million-dollar contract with Microsoft Caribbean Inc. and SoftwareOne Inc. at a time when the institution of higher learning is in a fiscal crisis.

UPR employees and students are using the tools provided by Google for online classes.

APPU President Ángel Rodríguez expressed in a written statement his reservations with a $3.3 million contract with Microsoft for the acquisition of technology licenses. This contract would end in February 2022 with the possibility of being renewed for three more years.

In addition, the contract calls for a reserve of 5 percent to cover up to $157,584 in purchases, the union leader said.

“At a time when the economic crisis at UPR continues to sharpen, this type of contract lacks the sense of administrative and fiscal responsibility that should prevail when evaluating any contract that further compromises the institution’s finances,” Rodríguez stated.

He stressed that the contract was signed without the endorsement of the university community or of the Distance Education Advisory Committee, which is made up of specialists in the area of technology and distance education whose express function is to advise the administration on the subject of technologies.

While the trend in educational institutions is to move toward open access or open source technologies and software, the university administration has opted instead for a multi-million dollar contract, Rodríguez added. APPU said the contract is an unnecessary expense in times of austerity.

Rodríguez noted that the investment could have been destined to address the lack of high-quality internet services for faculty, students and workers, or for the hiring of teaching and non-teaching staff.

The union leader said he expects a response to the letter addressed to Haddock, which includes a list of concerns, among which he highlighted:

* Will it be possible to continue using the tools provided by Google and that they do not entail costs for the UPR?

* What will happen to the data and web pages of projects and research that are created under Google Sites, Forms and Google Drive?

* How will the new system ensure the integrity of the data and all the work typical of our academic and creative activity?

* How will the confidentiality and protection of information of each member of the university community be ensured?

* What concrete benefits does this emulation bring?

Rodríguez called on the UPR president to show greater transparency toward the university community and the public.

“We cannot speak of austerity and sacrifices while incurring this type of expense,” he said.

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