UPR’s Calvary… NSF Funds

By Gilberto Ramos Rivera

For the past two years, the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) has been under the gaze of the National Science Foundation (NSF). Corruption allegations, funding suspensions, marches and irregularities, have turned the UPR system into a dangerous situation.

After the Second World War, the contribution of many scientists and engineers was recognized as an important factor in the victory of the United States and their allies. This victory wake up an interest in the political and general public spheres of maintains and support the advances developed by the research community. As a result, The United States Congress creates the National Science Foundation in the 1950 (NSF, 2011).

This foundation is the only federal organization in charge of support the science and engineering education and research. The NSF gives grants to research proposals. Some of the requirements that the organization makes to the grants receivers are: a periodical progress report, conduce the research according to the integrity policy and financial management (NSF, 2013).

From the 1980’s the UPR system received funds for investigation proposals. This means a huge advantage for the investigation in many departments of the campus.

A large part of the investigations that the UPR, and specifically the Mayagüez Campus (UPRM), conduce over the years was sustained by these funds. TT Alberto Morales, Art & Sciences Faculty Senator, said: “The engineering, agriculture and art & sciences faculties are only an example of faculties that had a high investigation level, obtained by the help of the NSF funds.”

David Bartolomei, Engineering Faculty Senator at the Mayagüez Campus, said that the entire UPR system has more than $90 millions of funds for investigations. “From this budget over $20 millions belong to investigations on our campus.”

Conflicts

The relation between the UPR and the NSF change after 2010.This year the university received a series of irregularities found by the NSF.

The year 2011 passed without a solution to the problems signaled by the NSF. On April 23, 2012 the NSF suspended the grants for the UPR until corrections were performed.

On May 24, 2012 the NSF sent a letter to the UPR administration let them know a wide variety of irregularities found in a visit of members of the organization between February 1 to 12, 2012 (Crisis Colegial con NSF, 2011).

The seven-page letter, set irregularities in the policies and procedures for the selection of programs, personnel, budget approval, and responsibility of the people enrolled in the researches. Another critical point listed on the letter is the poor accounting and cost treatment. Also the NSF requires a revision for the time and effort reports (Crisis Colegial con NSF, 2011).

The NSF gave a period until January 2013 to the administration to correct the irregularities founded (Crisis Colegial con NSF, 2011).

“The biggest problem here is the time and effort reports,” said Alberto Morales, academic senator for the Art & Sciences Faculty. “Investigations about this theme found that some professors were reporting the double of the really worked time.”

“Also another big problem is that investigators and professors were reporting salaries beyond the 25% of the normal salary.”

These revelations and the poor information provided by the central administration caused the manifestation of a diversity of groups.

According to the news site 80 grados, in February 5, 2013 the Art & Sciences Faculty of the UPRM approved without opposition, a resolution soliciting the resignation of the President of the Board of Trustees, Lcdo. Luis Berríos Amadeo, and the director of the Center of Sources for Engineering and Sciences, Dr. Manuel Gómez Rodríguez. Also they solicited the renounce of the President of the UPR, and the Chancellor of the Mayagȕez Campus, Dr. Miguel Muñoz and Dr. Jorge Rivera respectively

This same day, at 10:30 a.m., a march organized by the Students General Council arrived to the UPRM Rectory Building, José de Diego.

UPRM Rectory Building Jose de Diego.

UPRM Rectory Building Jose de Diego.

No matter that the administration, commanded by the President of the UPR, Dr. Miguel Muñóz limited the expressions to say: “We are making reforms to solve the problem.”

In March 2013, the Senate of Puerto Rico conduce headings in Mayagȕez to hear all the versions about the problem. However the Mayagüez Campus Chancellor not arrives to the headings and only sent a paper explaining his position.

March 15, 2013. Group of students organizing their  group to march to the Mayagüez town hall, for one of the Senatorial views.

March 15, 2013. Group of students organizing their
group to march to the Mayagüez town hall, for one of the Senatorial headings.

Today the suspension of funds is effective on the UPR system.

“This is bad for our students and our campus,” said David Bartolomei. “If this situation is not solved soon, the campus might be one year or two without any new investigation.”

This situation has generated a debate in Puerto Rico.

“Now everyone in our country knows what is happening here. The danger of this is that if the NSF reports were not make as it had to be, this could be happening with other entities that give founds to the UPR, so other founds could be at risk,” said Alberto Morales.

“For now we only can continue making pressure and not let this situation disappear of the public discussion.”

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