Puerto Rico Senate to Investigate resignations of UPR president and campus deans
SAN JUAN – The Senate approved Monday a resolution to investigate the “simultaneous resignation” of the previous interim president of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), Celeste Freytes, along with 10 of the 11 chancellors of the university system Feb. 16, at a time when the higher education institution was being asked to provide an independent fiscal plan with up to $300 million in budget cuts.
As explained in the preamble of Senate Resolution 113, the resignations had the potential to result in “administrative and operational instability” in the UPR system. The first one to step down was Freytes, who did not explain her reasons, but said her decision was “irrevocable.” The chancellors who joined the resignation did so in rejection of the fiscal and administrative policies recommended for the UPR.
The measure was approved with the support of the New Progressive Party’s (NPP) delegation as well as with the vote of Senate Minority Whip Eduardo Bhatia. The rest of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) delegation, Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) Sen. Juan Dalmau and independent Sen. José Vargas Vidot opposed the bill.
Even though he classified the investigation as “a waste of time,” Bhatia said he voted in favor of the measure “to be consistent” with his intention to favor all types of legislative investigations.
For his part, Dalmau criticized that resources be invested in this type of investigation when how to lessen the UPR cuts recommended by the fiscal control board is what should be looked at.
While originally it was $300 million, the cuts increased to $450 million when the central government’s plan was certified, but it could be reduced again after Gov. Ricardo Rosselló recognized Monday how difficult it would be for the UPR to operate with a cut of about half of the government’s allocation to the academic system.
The author of the resolution, Sen. Margarita Nolasco, defended the measure. She believes the resignation of the 11 UPR officials “is unusual,” and therefore merits investigating whether it was planned, intended to destabilize the UPR and if a crime was committed.
The Senate also approved investigating the implementation of Act 160 of 2012 on the “Tus valores cuentan” program (Senate Resolution 91); the measures taken by the Health Insurance Administration (ASES by its Spanish acronym) to comply with the federal Network Adequacy Standards (Senate Resolution 112); the operations of the agriculture-centered vocational school José Barceló in Adjuntas (Senate Resolution 116); the mediation processes between mortgage creditors and their debtors (Senate Resolution 117); and the granting of scholarships to students in the special education program (Senate Resolution 131).