Investigative Feature Story
By Diego S. Rodríguez Ruiz
Different Takes On Our Current Situation: Fee, Strike or Neither?
Students, professors, personnel and the administration of the University of Puerto Rico face serious decisions that may very well affect the system in its entirety for the foreseeable future. For now, everything can be summarized in three important subjects that have their own effects on everyone and everything: the establishment of the $800.00 fee, the imposition of a strike (most likely by the students) or neither finding the way to eliminate the fee by searching for the money elsewhere (not from the students) and therefore no need to start a strike or to protest.
Using the results gathered by the poll an estimate could be made on account of the number of people and their answers. According to the data, 63.60% of the UPRM students do not want the fee to go into effect, but don’t want a strike to happen either. As can be observed, the majority of the students are anti-strike and anti-fee. The other percentage of students is composed of 27.30% in favor of paying the fee and an interesting 9.09% are in favor of the strike, meaning that they think or understand that there’s no other alternative for the present situation.
These students who answered the poll were from different majors in the UPRM: Biology, Engineering, Business Administration, Chemistry, History and Psychology. Their ages ranged from 17 to 22 years old, with one to five academic years of experience in the university.
Many of these students proposed interesting possible solutions for what is happening, while others merely wrote that they did not know how to fix the problem. The solutions included the passing of a law preventing the striking students from closing the gates and not letting the other students through. Other solutions included: a change of administration; talking and negotiating until an accord is met; serious cuts in system costs; acquiring funds from somewhere in the government; that scholarships be awarded to students with 2.5 or more in index; to ask the government for a better budget, and reduce high positions in the administration. Three students wrote that the rich should pay and another three wrote that some debts should be collected from some private businesses that owe the university some money. Six students wrote that they did not know how the problem could be fixed.
The group that supported the fee mainly gave the same reasons: it’s only temporary or they want to keep studying and they don’t want a strike to happen. On the other hand, the group that supported the strike mainly said that their reason to do so was because students have the right to express disagreement with the administration’s decisions. Others simply said that not every student has the money to pay the fee, and that it is them that should fight for their right to study wherever they want.
The people who were in favor of neither (the great majority) had their own reasons: they wanted to keep studying; such a high fee is not fair; they don’t want a strike to happen; they don’t want the university to lose accreditation, or basically because every side has some valid points.
In an interview, a second year Biology major shared some thoughts about last years’ two month long strike: “Well, it was a bit exciting and new at first; being part of something like a protest against the system, but then the cost exceeded the cause.” He was referring to the fact that now students barely have a Christmas vacation and practically no days off as an effect of the strike.
When asked about the possibility of another strike happening, the Biology major said: “I’m going to fall back in my classes again and I seriously don’t want to lose this semester or to keep studying until July!” He also added the fact that if the fee is approved he would have to drop out of the university because between his job, his having to help his mother with 3 siblings and not receiving enough money from the scholarship, he wouldn’t be able to pay the $800.00 fee. This student is an example of the majority of students polled that do not want a strike to happen, but can’t afford the fee to be approved either.