Mexican university’s rector resigns

On Jan. 20 at 12:30 a.m. the spelling of Edward Simmen’s name was corrected.

A joint program with Mexican school Universidad de Las Americas-Puebla, remains in limbo following the departure of UDLA’s rector, the dean of the College of Communication at TCU said.

William Slater, dean of the College of Communication, said the dual degree program with UDLA is currently on hold. Pedro Angel Palou resigned as rector of UDLA in late November after accepting a position as a researcher at a French university, according to a statement on UDLA’s Web site.

“We’re taking a wait-and-see attitude, based on things that transpired there over the last year or so,” Slater said.

Nowell Donovan, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, said TCU’s position about Palou’s resignation is that it is an internal affair for UDLA.

“We await future events with a friendly interest,” Donovan said in an e-mail.

Palou did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment on his departure from UDLA.

Palou, who became rector of UDLA in 2005, was a target of heavy criticism after the temporary closure of the student-run newspaper and the firings of several staff and faculty members.

Mark Ryan, former dean of colleges and professor of international relations at UDLA, said Palou “was extremely unpopular and was under a great deal of pressure from many quarters because of discontent with his administrative actions.”

Maria Lopez Aguilar, subdirector of communication at UDLA, said the university would not comment on Palou’s resignation until a new rector is appointed.

Edward Simmen, UDLA’s former official historian, said 213 faculty and staff had been fired as of August 2007. Simmen, who holds a doctorate in British literature from TCU, said he was dismissed without explanation Jan. 4.

“People are waiting and wondering what’s going to happen,” Simmen said. “Faculty are afraid to talk.”

UDLA was put under warning January 2007 by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, an institution that gives accreditation to schools in 11 U.S. southern states and abroad. Initially accredited in 1959, UDLA is one of six international institutions with SACS accreditation, said Belle Wheelan, president of the Commission on Colleges of SACS. SACS last reviewed UDLA’s accreditation in December, when it placed the university on probation, an evaluation more severe than being under warning, Wheelan said.

“The institution will send a report to us. Then we’ll send a team to verify what the report says, and then both of those reports will go the commission to vote on the status of the institution,” Wheelan said.

Wheelan said SACS will decide on UDLA’s accreditation status in December. Among the standards UDLA has failed to comply with are financial stability and a governing board not controlled by a minority, according to a statement on the SACS Web site.

“The budget should reflect the priorities in the institution, and the budget that we had was not respected,” said Luis Foncerrada, former provost of UDLA. “The real expenses were far away from priorities.”

Members of the university’s advisory board resigned or were dismissed after expressing discontent with the administration, Ryan said.

“Under previous administrative structures it had been given quite a bit of power,” Ryan said of the advisory board. “It was abolished toward the end of Palou’s tenure.”

UDLA’s governing body is the Patronato, a board that comprises members of the Jenkins family, who run the Puebla-based Mary Street Jenkins Foundation.

Established by American businessman William O. Jenkins the Mary Street Jenkins Foundation is a main source of funding for UDLA.

Attempts to reach the Jenkins family at the Mary Street Jenkins Foundation offices in Mexico City and Puebla were unsuccessful.

Slater said TCU is willing to continue relations with UDLA if there is change in the administration.

“As it stands right now we are willing to continue our relationship with them assuming a new rector will come in and make things right,” Slater said.