By Kadida Couto, Latin America Digest, October 3, 2023.
The saga of Dr. Elka Ríos and her appointment and conflicted return as Head of the Medical Sciences Campus, after she was dismissed from the same position a year ago for very serious reasons, should serve as a lesson for all Puerto Ricans. the society . .
The unfortunate choice of a dean who clearly did not enjoy the trust of the university community she intended to lead, and the consensus that was generated in opposition to her among said community, served to highlight just how much some things have changed in Puerto Rich. Now, the real leadership our country needs lies outside the upper echelons of power. It is in the intelligence, strength, determination and moral integrity of those who reject concessions and deception from governments and authorities that attack and conflict with their interests.
In this struggle, the highest authority of the University of Puerto Rico, its Board of Directors and its President, is in a very bad position. They were quick to promote and approve the rector’s return to RCM, knowing that she did not have the support of the university community there because her actions had forced her dismissal once. They obeyed those who pressured them, exposing their weakness and generating mistrust inside and outside the UPR. They have not proven that they have the intellectual and moral capacity, nor the minimum competencies to lead the Universal Periodic Review at the highest level. Under these powers, appointed by the current governor, the services provided by our university are very poor.
True university leadership is on the other side. The students, faculty and staff of RCM, who united in opposition and protest against the appointment of Dr. Ríos, today have every reason to feel proud of the principled stand they took and the rational, organized and civilized pressure they exerted, until after 25 days of violent struggle they reached the dismissal of the controversial official.
This was possible thanks to the achievement of a broad coalition of university sectors, from the University Council, to the deans, department directors, teachers’ and staff associations, student councils, in short, an exemplary group of what constitutes a real university community. In addition, the process had the support of a range of health-related professional entities, amplifying the importance of the regional coordination mechanism for Puerto Rico’s health system.
For her part, Dr. Rios did a disservice to herself and the image of a serious academic she should project, through her misleading public expressions in the numerous press interviews she gave during the hours she was awaiting the court’s decision. The Board of Directors regarding their continuation or exit from the Regional Coordination Mechanism. It would have been better for the doctor to show a less defiant and vindictive attitude.
Unfortunately, the outcome of this matter was written on the wall from the beginning. In recent years, the regional movement has gone through periods of significant leadership vacuum resulting in instability and constant changes in administrative positions. The RCM community was already calling for an end to volatility, greater transparency and participation in governance.
This was forcefully summed up by the President of the College of Physicians of Puerto Rico, who described Ríos’ appointment as “insurmountable” and wisely advised him to resign from the position, for the sake of RCM’s stability. For their part, the students, faculty and staff at RCM knew how to fill the void with positive and responsible leadership that led to the achievement of their main goal.
Now, it is essential that the university authorities, responsible for appointing a new Dean of the Regional Coordination Mechanism, act with the maturity, wisdom and respect that this moment requires and take seriously the views of the sectors to be formed. Affected by the arrival of the new university president. The least the Universal Periodic Review needs today is to create a new source of conflict in the regional coordination mechanism.
Puerto Rico stands out for the quality of its health workers, mainly produced by RCM. Therefore, the sustainability, stability and good management of this facility must be our country’s top priority. This must be the North that guides any process promoted and any decision made that affects the present and future of the Medical Sciences Campus.
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