Troubles In The UPR system

We already know that the the University’s Governing Board approved an audit to determine if there were any irregularities while Urayoán Walker, UPR system president, gave the presidential scholarship ($224,643 total) to 13 graduate students; and the possibility of camera installations throughout the Río Piedras precinct has not been well received by the student body. Is this all that there is to it?

Gilberto Domínguez Escaleras, representative to the University’s Board, talked with Her Campus about what is going on with these situations and the effects that these activities will have, not only on our precinct, but in our society.

Camera installation history

When Ana Guadalupe was the rector of the Universidad de Puerto Rico, Recinto de Río Piedras (UPRRP), in 2011, a fiscal emergency was declared, which led to the immediate solicitation for the installation of cameras throughout the campus. This decision went to the Administrative Board, but it didn’t go through the Academic Senate; the installation was approved anyways.

The community reacted quickly once they noticed what was happening and they got organized to belie the effort, even though some of the cameras to be installed had already been bought.

“This camera installation proposal was made without a security plan, because the University does not have a public security plan since more than a decade”, reminded Domínguez Escalera in an interview.

The economic funds that were used to buy this camera equipment wasn’t for the only use of the camera installation, they were to be used for the different things exposed in the Violence Against Women Act, but the Administrative Board decided to use it on cameras. The company that supplied the cameras was affiliated to the Partido Nuevo Progresista (PNP), the same party that was in the governing power in 2011.

Once this is out in the clear, an audit on camera purchases is ordained; the camera purchasing process got the lowest ranking of the audit, denouncing that the process was not adequately done, that it was not a fiscal emergency, and that it was just an excuse to use and pay a specific company.

“There is not a full inventory of the cameras that were bought, even though the purchase was approved a few years ago”, informed Domínguez Escalera. “Some cameras are identified that they were bought with federal funds, and others are not; we don’t really know which ones were bought with those funds”.

During the past academic year, the Academic Senate held public hearings where the University’s community and different entities participated, giving their opinion about the use of security cameras on campus. The majority of these bodies expressed themselves against the installation of the security cameras. Even though this census, the Comité de Reglamento y Ley moves forward, creating a new regulation for the creation and utilization of security cameras, -the ones that were already bought, but not approved-.

When this regulation got approved, there was a reclaim of how the cameras were purchased. The audit that had been already done, got published, and a referendum for the security cameras is called. This is where we stand today.

Camera referendum

The camera referendum, which was called because of the audit results, is supposed to endorse, or not, the regulation proposed by the Academic Senate.

If the University’s community does not endorse the camera installations, Carlos Severino Valdez, UPRRP rector, won’t install the purchased equipment. Domínguez Escalera said that Severino Valdez exposed that if the regulation and installation is not approved, they would have to return money to the Federal Justice Department.

“Do we want to endorse a possible corrupt act and bad public funds management while installing the camera equipment?” asks Domínguez Escalera, “or do we prefer to return the money and create a security plan for the campus, which we don’t have?”

Presidential Scholarship

Domínguez Escalera took his time to explain, also, the misunderstandings with the Presidential Scholarships “giveaway”. In a general overview, rumors have it that the scholarships were given to people who were related, by family or work, to employees of the UPR system or of the Government.

The whole mayhem breaks out when a Law School professor brings to the table in a faculty reunion that another professor, also from the Law School, supposedly pushed the Deanery of Administrative Matters of the precinct to recommend a specific student to the Presidential Scholarship. Since the Presidential Scholarship assures the student a job, the problem arises when the call for the job is asked to be opened but the position is already reserved without the Schools’ consultation.

After this, they notice irregularities in the recommendation letters of Arturo Ríos, who used to be an assessor of labor issues for Alejandro García Padilla, Puerto Rico’s governor, and with the UPR Governing Board presidents’ niece, Mónica Sánchez.

Domínguez Escalera commented that Severino Valdez tried to justify that the letters were sent before the call because an official notification, sent by Walker, had been received stating that each precincts rector should had to identify the positions of difficult recruitment that. Once this notification is received, some rectors start sending recommendation letters, without knowing the places of difficult recruitment that were approved.

Three letters are sent to the Evaluation Committee, and only two of them are approved. The neglected solicitation was Mónica Sánchez’s, the only letter sent directly to the Committee without the rector’s knowledge.

Certification 72 of the Presidential Scholarship Regulation states that recommendations must come from the President and from the rectors; but because there was never an open call, we cannot fully understand the official process of the Presidential Scholarship giveaway.

Anyone that applies to this Scholarship needs to be going into graduate school, and once they finish their studies outside the Island, they already have a job as a professor in the University.

As representative to the University’s Board, Domínguez Escalera presented some amendments for the certification to Christian Arvelo Forteza, member of the Governing Board. One of the amendments is that if the nominee has a blood relationship with a Governing Board member or with some authority that intervenes in the process, they should have to do a sworn declaration stating that is not a fixed nomination.

What’s happening

The School of Architecture is asking that their dean, Francisco Rodriguez, renounces, since he submitted a recommendation letter for his niece to the Presidential Scholarship.

The Law School is looking for new amendments for the process and to reform and consult the job openings so that there really is a competition process.

Domínguez Escaleras states: “I think we should study the investigations that are being realized to see what action should we take, and that the people to be held responsible for this answer to their actions”.