UPRM Without Funds For Graduate Research

How does a University without money for funding research projects sounds like? That is the idea floating around the students in the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez (UPRM). This desperate thought came to their mind just when the NSF said that they are not assigning any more funds to the institution. Marches and demonstrations in the institution are only making the situation tenser between the students and the UPRM Chancellor, Jorge Rivera Santos.

Student protesting in front of the Student Center.

Student protesting in front of the Student Center.

This problem has been around since May 2010. The President of the UPR system, Miguel Muñoz said in an interview done by ElNuevoDia that his administration is doing everything they can to meet the demands of the National Science Foundation (NSF), which is the institution that provided the grants for the research projects. The NSF has been providing funds for research for around 30 years and suspended their funding last April 23, 2012.

A long letter sent on May 24, 2013 by the NSF to the UPR administration specified irregularities in the policies, procedures of programs, budget and incorrect reports of hours by professors involved in the research. But most importantly it said that the UPR had horrible accounting reports. The information on the letters of the NSF was found out through time because the administration did not made public the documents at the time.

On campus 21 projects had been affected due to the lack of funding, 17 of them ended this year and had not being able to apply for more funding due to the fact that the NSF is no longer providing any more funding to any research project in the Mayagüez campus.

David Bartolomei an Academic Senator representing the faculty of engineering said: “Right now the only thing that students can do is create pressure towards the Chancellor and ask his resign and create awareness of the problem. This Chancellor is spreading lies about the senate. ”

What is the National Science Foundation (NSF)?

The United States Congress created the National Science Foundation in the 1950 after World War II. The NSF is a federal organization that provides funds for graduate research in the fields of science and engineering. The organization has three essential requirements: a periodical progress report, conduce the research according to the integrity policy and financial management. The UPR system has received funds since the 1980’s so for around 30 years research has been funded by the NSF.

The Problem

The suspensions of the funds were made because the administration didn’t adequately address the statements made previously by the NSF in May of 2010. One specific example is that the professor were not reporting their work hours correctly someone purpose while other because they did not know how to fill the form correctly.

The General Student Council had a saying “When do not know the problem, how does the administration expect us to fix it.” This has due to the fact that the administration did not make public any of the documents regarding the NSF or the action plan.

A website has been created so student can learn of this problem (http://uprm.info/nsf/ ) is design to instruct students on what is the NSF and what funds are being affected.

Alberto Morales another Academic Senator said: “Investigations found that some professors were reporting double of time that they really work so in return professors were gaining salaries beyond 25% of the normal salary which is not allowed. Another serious problem was that the Action Plan was never available to the public, how can we fix something when we do not know what the problem was.”

The NSF rules specify that the indirect fund received by the professors for working on research cannot excide more than 25% of their normal salary.

Pressure on the Chancellor

The Academic Senate refused to work with any Dean or the Chancellor from the UPRM because they are waiting for a new administration to step in before taking any action regarding the UPRM although they are still working and pre-approving documents.

March to the Office of the Chancellor, Jorge Rivera Santos.

March to the Office of the Chancellor, Jorge Rivera Santos.

 

Not only did the General Student Consul ask the Chancellor to resign but also most of the professors in different departments on campus. Still the Chancellor and the President have nothing new to say just that “they are doing the right thing and everything the can”. Only time will tell what is going to happened in the mean time UPRM students are waiting for a miracle.

 

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