Aware of the value of the public university - where he graduated-, Jorge Haddock Acevedo has just assumed the presidency of the University of Puerto Rico, full of challenges, with focus on revoking the probation and reaffirm accreditation of eight of the eleven campuses.
The loss of the "Middle States Commission on Higher Education" status would place the UPR in serious difficulty of fulfilling its task of training thinkers, researchers and professionals that contribute to the economic, social and cultural development of an island that faces its reconstruction.
The University accreditation is directly related to federal financial aid that students receive. The financial statements of the UPR must be submitted to the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and the US Department of Education on December 30, as part of the process to dispel threats against fellowships.
Thus, it is important for the entire university community to work to guarantee accreditation, so that federal income that enables quality education for low-income talent would not be affected.
Overcoming the status challenge will depend on the success of managing a reduced budget, collecting external funds that will provide greater strength and financial autonomy, and strategies to prioritize academic excellence. Promoting research and innovation implies a source of wealth, and brings credits to the reputation of the University. In its budgetary adjustment exercise, the new University leader must keep in mind environmental defense and contribution to culture, as promoters to social equilibrium.
Facing these challenges, it is fair to grant space and collaboration for the new UPR president to advance his important agenda within the new budgetary reality, and the requirements of the island's recovery process.
That is why Haddock Acevedo´s statement brings optimism, in the sense that the University has the competence to comply with the guidelines of the fiscal plan, despite the reduction of central government funds. It is encouraging that the purposes of university renewal are based on the conviction that the goals are achievable with the available resources.
The University sector is called to be a crucial part of the island´s recovery comprehensive effort, with education as the knowledge source that translates into social values and economic incentives.
Living up to such expectations demands processes and functions redefinition, as well as the public resources redistribution. In this, the UPR is no exception. One of its main objectives must be efficiency in providing services.
We hope that the revised fiscal plan that the UPR submits to the Oversight Board, will show the route that will complete the necessary university reforms. Among the initiatives, the new president includes the review of the administrative organization. Making it relevant to current times is essential to efficiently support teaching and student services.
The collaboration of the university community is key to the transformation. We agree with President Haddock Acevedo that a University project can be reached within a reasonable time. In addition, it is important for the UPR to restructure its $ 473 million debt.
The most solid commitment to open dialogue and participation is necessary, along with transparency and accountability principles. President Haddock Acevedo said that he will maintain consultation activities in campuses and the evaluation of interim deans. It will also be healthy for the principle of merit, based on objective measurements, to prevail in university management.
Haddock Acevedo´s vision brings realism and optimism to the university project that Puerto Rico wants to preserve: an education of excellence with resources and self-sufficient management, aware of its role as promoter of economic and social development.