News

A safe harbor for Puerto Rican scholars

Maria UC Davis

Credit: Sergio Lacueva/Getty Images

Quick summary

  • Effort focuses on helping University of Puerto Rico scholars continue research
  • About 175 faculty and others offer help in various forms
  • Next step is matching academic pursuits of Puerto Rican scholars with offers of help

The University of California, Davis, may become an academic harbor where some Puerto Rican scholars continue their research in the wake of the devastation Hurricane Maria wrought on their island.

About 175 faculty members and others have expressed their willingness to host displaced graduate students and faculty from the University of Puerto Rico for the fall, winter and/or spring quarters. Many have offered to provide financial resources, transportation or housing.

“Our hearts go out to everyone affected by this disaster, including our university community members with ties to Puerto Rico,” said Chancellor Gary S. May. “UC Davis is a global leader, and with that comes a responsibility to help.”

Survey response ‘overwhelming’

UC Davis sent a survey Friday to members of its Academic Senate and Academic Federation to ask about their ability to help Puerto Rican scholars who could benefit from temporarily relocating to UC Davis.

“Many UC Davis faculty members have personal and professional ties to Puerto Rico, and we are all eager to help our fellow researchers and scholars in their time of need,” said Prasant Mohapatra, vice provost for graduate education and dean of Graduate Studies at UC Davis. “The response to the call for support has been overwhelming.”

Offers of support widespread

Offers to help Puerto Rican scholars came from faculty members and others in all four colleges, four of the university’s professional schools, UC Davis Extension, Cooperative Extension and research centers.

Ralph Hexter, provost and executive vice chancellor, asked Mohapatra and two other campus leaders to look at how UC Davis could help scholars in Puerto Rico. At the same time, a group of 11 faculty members with ties to Puerto Rico was urging the campus to help in some way.

Mohapatra and Philip Kass, vice provost for Academic Affairs, sent out the survey. In their email, they speculated that about 20 students would take UC Davis up on an offer to be a visiting scholar but said the number of faculty is unknown.

Next steps

A 14-member steering committee leading the effort will now try to match the academic pursuits of displaced scholars and those offering help at UC Davis.

UC Davis is focusing its current efforts on helping scholars at UPR because of its similarity as a research university and some existing ties between the institutions. The public university system in Puerto Rico enrolls more than 60,000 students on 11 campuses.

The faculty and graduate students would be at UC Davis on a visiting basis so they can sustain their research, and the students would not pay tuition or receive academic credit. The campus is not offering to host undergraduates because it is not able to offer academic credit to them.

UPR campuses were closed for more than a week after Hurricane Irma struck on Sept. 7 and were damaged more severely when Maria made landfall on Sept. 20. The official publication of the university system, Diálogo UPR, said on Oct. 9 that the system expects to resume classes at most campuses on or before Oct. 30.

The Academic Senate at UC Davis has 2,600 ladder-rank faculty members. The 1,200 members of the Academic Federation include lecturers, adjunct professors, librarians, Cooperative Extension specialists and more.

Located about 15 miles west of the state capital of Sacramento, UC Davis is a top-ranked university with 104 undergraduate majors, 99 graduate programs and six professional schools.