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UPR to evaluate 5 candidates for its presidency

By on April 5, 2017

SAN JUAN — Education Secretary Julia Keleher said Tuesday that five of 14 candidates are qualified to preside over the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), thus beginning the university board’s process to elect its new president.

“We thank all the educators who have made themselves available […] in these challenging times, ahead of the future of a university that we hope continues serving the students and training the professionals that Puerto Rico needs,” Keleher wrote.

Puerto Rico Education Secretary Julia Keleher (Juan J. Rodríguez/CB)

Puerto Rico Education Secretary Julia Keleher (Juan J. Rodríguez/CB)

The University Board saw 14 candidacies, but nine were disqualified for lacking required documents, while one candidate hadn’t completed their doctoral degree. According to the Education secretary, the final date to present documents was March 31, and each candidate’s files will be sent no later than April 12 to be considered by the UPR’s 11 Academic Senates, one per campus.

“Unfortunately, candidates’ information was revealed beforehand without the [University] Board’s authorization. It is unfortunate because we didn’t have the opportunity to inform candidates about the committee’s decision regarding their documents. We will continue our work and we hope that the university community will evaluate each candidate’s merits and to present their recommendations to the Board,” she added.

The candidates are Nivia Fernández Hérnandez, interim director of the UPR’s Río Piedras campus (UPRRP); Arturo Avilés, professor of business administration at UPR Bayamón; Martha Quiñones, social sciences professor at UPR Arecibo; Miguel Muñoz, professor in the Medical Sciences-campus (RUM by its Spanish acronym) and former UPR president; and Carlos Colón de Armas, professor at UPR Río Piedras’ Graduate School of Business Administration.

However, Muñoz’s candidacy has been met with opposition because he presided over the academic institution between June 2011 and May 2013, when the university implemented an $800 fee hike that resulted in student protests. For his part, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló called Muñoz a “good man” and praised his qualifications, but reiterated that the university must have autonomy in its confirmation process.

See also: Governor leaves it up to UPR to select its president

“My hope is good candidates are found and that the university itself can then identify who is the best man or woman to carry out this responsibility,” the governor said in a press conference after signing Act 19-2017, or permitting reform.

The UPR is facing a $450 million budget cut, with ramifications that could include campus consolidations, departments eliminated and increased fees. Students from the university’s 11 campuses will hold a national assembly in San Juan’s Roberto Clemente Coliseum to discuss strategies to oppose the multimillion-dollar cuts and to prepare the concerns they will present to the Financial Oversight & Management Board for Puerto Rico created by the federal Promesa law to monitor the island’s finances. UPR Río Piedras operations have been shut down since March 28. A student strike could continue indefinitely after April 6.

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