Effects in students of the loss of  NSF funds

By: Keishla L. López Domenech

The conflict of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) could negatively affect students, even those who do not conduct research. Moreover, it also could affect future enrollment.

This conflict has been heard in the media since April 2012, but it has been occurring since 2010.The University did not act fast and now it would be a challenge to correct the errors made.

The NSF, a foundation that supports science and engineering research, found some irregularities in the use of the funds that they provided during a visit they made to the UPR. One of the irregularitie

s was found in the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez (UPRM).

“The losses associated to the UPR now are totaling about $20 million,” said the web page upr.info. This enormous amount of money is used to do research studies, that include all expenses related for the research, from the professors’ salary, equipment, and materials that are used directly and indirectly.

One of the most affected parts of the UPR would be de UPRM. “Due to prolonged failure, the RUM risk that the suspension becomes exclusion” said news.info. The UPRM is the second largest campus in the UPR, and most of the majors it offers are from science and engineering. If the NSF decides to eliminate the funds permanently it would be an enormous loss for the college.

These funds are mostly used for graduate students but this

impacting situation affects students who do research and the ones that don’t work with research. Not having these funds “reduces their (students’) opportunities for acquiring research funds, or becoming research assistants. It reduces the enrollment of graduate students which in turn reduces the number of sections available to undergraduate students on certain laboratory courses being taught by graduate students,” said Sandra Zapata, professor of nursing at the UPRM. The loss of these funds would break the chain of learning.

Students from chemistry of UPRM working on a research project.

Students from chemistry of UPRM working on a research project.

Biology students examine an animal with their instructor (graduate students).

Biology students examine an animal with their instructor (graduate students).

The conflict between the NSF and the UPR would also affect the enrollment of new students to the university. One of the main consequences could be that students with excellent GPA or with future plans for graduate work will consider other universities that do not have this problem as their first choice, rather than the UPRM. If this occurs, it would create another conflict within the UPR similar to when they established the $400 fee per semester. Students could enroll in other universities with less conflict and even those already enrolled in the UPR could decide to transfer.

Not only would the university’s funds be affected, the prestige of the UPRM and the rest of the UPR would be in danger as well. This is because one of the main questions the NSF is asking is where the funds are really going and is the UPR appropriately managing the millions of dollars it has received. Because of this and other situations the students have requested the resignation of the President of the University.

The General Student Council of UPRM organized an assembly to inform students of the University and the struggle the University had to keep their funds. Students were only informed but they haven’t made a decision of going on strike.

In the first week of March students marched across campus wearing laboratory coats and glasses. In an effort to raise their voices and let others know they worry about being held back by the NSF. Still the students are paying attention to what happens with this situation.

An assembly and a march are not enough to keep the funds; some think it is more than that. Students and the administration may also need to “prepare proposals, provide proper evidence, defend them and then have them be approved to be able to receive the funds” said Melba Serrano, director of admission of the UPR in Aguadilla.

Students are talking about this conflict everyday; it is one of the most discussed topics in the university. On April 11 rumor began that  “soon to be known for the determination of the NSF to suspend for five years the funds allocated to millionaires University of Puerto Rico for their research projects” El Nuevo Día.

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