Public Responds to Ricardo Rosselló’s Assistant Professorship, by Juan C. Kuang

“Dr. Rosselló Nevares’ academic record and expertise in engendering stem cells in living tissue will strengthen the teaching capacity and course offerings on this subject in Puerto Rico,” said University of Puerto Rico President Dr. Miguel Muñoz in a press release when challenged on the much-disputed appointment of Dr. Rosselló to an an assistant professor position at the UPR’s Medical Sciences campus, after the story broke in mid-August.

Ricardo Rosselló had been on the UPR payroll since August 2012 despite not having been assigned a formal position on the Medical Sciences campus, because the Institute of Neurobiology had not accepted his appointment.

President Muñoz came under fire soon after the news was first announced. The controversy continued to arise throughout late August and September as he attempted to explain his reasoning behind what journalist Manuel Martínez Maldonado called a “lightning hire”.

Dr. Miguel Muñoz has been extensively interviewed in regards to recent actions. He maintains a staunch defense of his decisions. Photo credit: Primera Hora

Dr. Miguel Muñoz has been extensively interviewed in regards to recent actions. He maintains a staunch defense of his decisions. Photo credit: Primera Hora

Muñoz assured opponents to the appointment that “Ricardo Rosselló sent a resume to the Medical Sciences Campus which was evaluated by a committee of peers and recommended favorably for an assistant professorship for his research into stem cells.”

The Medical Sciences Campus of the UPR, after finalizing construction in 1972, has been at the forefront of medicinal education in Puerto Rico because it incorporates the only specialized schools of Pharmacology, Dentistry, Nursing, et. al. As such, it retains a certain amount of prestige amongst the UPR system. By contrast, recent events such as the NSF grant fiasco (where discrepancies in university records presented placed a significant amount of it’s professors’ funding in jeopardy) and the alleged re-purposing of certain campuses (which would have rendered Mayagüez and Río Piedras as exclusively graduate-study campuses), Miguel Muñoz and the rest of the UPR administration in a particularly negative light, which has in turn tinted the community’s perception of Medical Sciences.

Third-year UPRM Business Administration student Urselio Álvarez said that “the situation reflects negatively on the administration as it implies favoritism towards public figures despite a supposed necessity for laying off other employees. It evokes a slight negative change in how I perceive the medical campus, nearing [its] administration’s image to [that of] the rest of the campuses.”

Opinions on Dr. Rosselló himself are likewise difficult to quantify. His previous position at Dr. Erich Jarvis’ neurobiology lab at Duke University has been oft-touted in the face of those who doubt his qualification for the position. Maldonado, for instance, pointed out that he has only published two original works over the course of his post-doc career, and remained outside of the public eye since 2010, and suggested that Rosselló has spent that time involved in non-scientific pursuits.

Ricardo Rosselló's family history in politics is being highlighted as problematic. Furthermore, his corpus is under close scrutiny as the media attempts to determine his qualifications. Photo credit: Primera Hora

Ricardo Rosselló’s family history in politics is being highlighted as problematic. Furthermore, his corpus is under close scrutiny as the media attempts to determine his qualifications. Photo credit: Primera Hora

Over the course of the month of August, the controversy unfolded as various news outlets jumped on the latest contention regarding the UPR. In late August, a significant number of local news articles decried Rosselló’s appointment and began investigating his credentials.

The general consensus among members of both the UPR community and the nation at large seems to be a sentiment of disapproval and disappointment in the administration. Amongst students, such as Nexcy Richardson, 5th year UPRM English major, there is the impression that the intentions of Muñoz and his board are moot, and that the hiring “is not in the community’s best interests”. Hector López, another English major, stated that “due to this incident, his reputation has been marked as someone that truly does not know how to manage the university properly.”

Regarding Rosselló, on the other hand, perspectives on him seem more passive in the among the students. Lopez was quoted as saying, “As far as “Ricky” [Rosselló], I really don’t have much of an opinion on him. The only thing that may produce an opinion towards him would be that he has his father’s last name, and everyone knows who Pedro Rosselló is and what he managed to do while [governing] the island.”

Certainly then, his actions in the political sphere are under some scrutiny, as journalists at Caribbean Business pointed out in August, “[he] was vice-chair for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential primary campaign in Puerto Rico and served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention that year.”

Yet another perspective that is surprisingly pervasive among students is the influence the New Progressive Party (P.R.’s premier statehood party) may wield through Rosselló. Although no evidence has yet surfaced to suggest Rosselló is explicitly involved in any sort or political campaign at the moment, which would in turn suggest a conflict of interest, the idea that the PNP may, at some point in the future, use his position to exercise a certain influence.

Fifth-year UPRM Political Science Major Amanda Díaz expressed concerns that “Muñoz had involved politics in education”, and that “even if he is that smart, he’s likely not the most qualified for the position. The PNP gets a foothold for the party to change policies within the campus”.

Works Cited

“Presidente UPR defiende a Ricky Rosselló.”Primera Hora 27 Aug 2012, online ed. Web.

CB Online Staff. “Ricardo Rosselló gets UPR posting.” Caribbean Business 28 Aug 2012, online ed. Web.

Interview Sources

Amanda Diaz
5th year Political Science major, UPRM

Nexcy Richardson
5th year English major, UPRM

Urselio Alvarez
3rd year Business major, UPRM

Hector Lopez
3rd year English major, UPRM

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