December 7, 2010
What will come of the University of Puerto Rico
By: Yesenia Rosa Pérez
On April 21, 2010 a 48-hour strike began at the University of Puerto Rico- Río Piedras. In a General Student Assembly, on April 13, 2010, students talked and negotiated several issues.
The students demanded the repeal of the by-law 98 to eliminate the tuition waivers, guarantee that the campuses will not be privatized, recommend to solve the budget deficit problems, and guarantee stopping tuition hikes.
After the failure of negotiations, an indefinite strike began on April 23, 2010. Gradually every single campus went on strike supporting UPR Rio Piedras, even Professors and workers joined in. On April 27, professors from the Cayey campus went on a 72-hour strike in support of the students.
“The Middle States Commission on Higher Education placed the UPR on probation for failing three of they’re standards, none of them we’re because of the strike,” reads a bulletin written by the organization Colegiales en Accion (CEA) of the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez. “Standard 3: Institutional Resources; Standard 11: Academic Offerings; and standard 4: Leadership and Governance; is true that the strike prevented the continuation of academic offerings, but the administration ignored all attempts of negotiation prior to the strike,”
The strike ended on June 22, 2010, but after the end of the student strike, the UPR administration announced new budget cuts. They’re going to reduce 30 percent of the academic offerings, make the classrooms overcrowded, also cut out some programs, dismiss professors, and raise the fee to $800 on January, 2011.
“This fee that the administration plans to impose in January is so that the students pay for the budget deficit. With the $800 they’re hoping to raise $40 million, although the deficit exceeds $200 million. They’re going to keep insisting on imposing the fee because the Government is not committed to the Universities project,” reads a CEA bulletin published in August, 2010.
The CEA bulletin also states that the Government, with the fee and other austerity measures, wants to limit the access of poor and working-class students to public education.
On September 21, 2010 the University of Puerto Rico- Rio Piedras marched around the streets in disapproval of the imposition of the $800 fee where millions of students participated. In October, 28 the students of the UPR- Mayagüez and Cayey also marched around the school demonstrating there support.
On November 10, El Nuevo Día reported that Humacao, Arecibo and Cayey had a debate where students gathered at the Villa del Capitán Correa passing a motion rejecting the imposition of the fee; Cayey, students rejected the fee, the electronic vote and criticized the administration of President De la Torre and the president of the Board of Trustees, Ygrí Rivera.
In the University of Mayagüez there was a student assembly on December 2, 2010 to see if there would be a strike. “Its just unfair, students come to school to study and not waste time, why a strike?” commented Melina Rivera, a student from Mayagüez. “In some ways I’m not against what they’re fighting for, but I’m against the way they are fighting for it; the strike isn’t the way.”
In the assembly they approved to repudiate the fee avoiding closures that interrupt work. However, they didn’t managed to make any concrete plans of action to express the students opposition to it.
Sonia Pérez a student from the university of Aguadilla said, “How am I suppose to study if I can’t afford it? Right now I’m paying for both, my sister, who’s in Mayagüez and myself, how am I going to afford that money?”
With such an increase, is estimated that around 15,000 students wont be able to pay tuition and continue their studies. There would be students that will not be able to graduate, because they can‘t afford it. The students have come to a conclusion in which they don’t want a strike but they don’t want to pay the fee either. So what then?