Wednesday, September 23, 2020

University of Puerto Rico in further peril with chancellors dismissed

By on July 19, 2017

SAN JUAN — Not even a week after becoming the University of Puerto Rico’s (UPR) interim president, Darrel Hillman has dismissed 10 of the institution’s chancellors. Since the Río Piedras campus has not had a chancellor since May 18, the action has left the institution without an administrative head at all of its campuses.

Hillman’s decision comes at a time when the UPR is amid several administrative process, such as approving a budget and establishing federal funds, which requires that each campus has a chancellor at its helm.

José M. Encarnación, who was dismissed from the Humacao campus, told Caribbean Business that he “received a letter that said the chancellor’s position in the Humacao campus is left vacant effective [Tuesday].” Although the letter expressed gratitude for his commitment and dedication, it doesn’t state a reason for the development.

The University of Puerto Rico Clock Tower in Río Piedras. (File)

The UPR interim president’s office has yet to make a public statement regarding the events, so possible candidates to fill the vacancies have yet to be known. The president of the UPR is in charge of nominating candidates for the posts, after which they need to be officially appointed by the  academic institution’s governing board.

The decision to remove the chancellors comes a day after Hillman postponed a university board meeting to discuss the institution’s budget. It is now slated for July 24. The board is made up of the institution’s chancellors as well as faculty and student representatives. A budget proposal for the UPR needs the approval of the university board before it receives final approval by the governing board.

Besides the budget, the campuses were also dealing with having been put on probation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) and were working on re-obtaining federal funding that were suspended during the student strike. Since the majority of these operations are handled at the campus level, prolonged vacancies could hinder progress in these areas.  

While there’s been no comment from the university’s administration, representatives of the government and the student body have given mixed reactions.

Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s chief of staff, William Villafañe, called the dismissals by Hillman normal.

“The UPR is in the process of selecting chancellors. That is normal at this stage. The UPR is autonomous and now needs a governing board, and that governing board is the one that needs to implement public policy for the university.”

Contrary to Villafañe, the Bayamón campus’ student council expressed concern that the firings occurred at a particularly precarious period for the university.

“It is worrisome that while the University is going through problems of accreditation and access to student financial aid, the new interim president of the UPR, Dr. Darrel Hillman has decided to dismiss Prof. [Carmen] Skerrett as chancellor,” Kevin Robles, Bayamón’s student representative to the university board.


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