by: Rocío García Irizarry
The Student Council of the University of Puerto Rico – Mayaguez summoned all the students to a General Assembly at the Rafael A. Mangual Coliseum at 10:30 a.m.
Hundreds of students waited in line under the blistering sun so they could attend the assembly and vote. Although it wasn’t as organized as it should’ve been, the line moved quickly. Members of the “Colegiales en Accion” (CEA) distributed to the students waiting in line a flyer that explained the purpose of the assembly and background information on the situation in the UPR with emphasis on the Mayaguez Campus.
All throughout the campus the students that support the ‘No Fee, no strike” campaign, hung a series of red, white and black posters with their main message was “ Against the Fee, against the strike, UPR Open” This same group of students agreed to attend the assembly wearing a black shirt with the same message.
The assembly started at around 11 a.m. and ran as usual with its parliamentary process. Motions were proposed, accepted and denied, but most students could not understand what the speakers were saying and complained the audio was faulty. The main topics on the agenda: the cafeteria company Sodexo, the strike and the next assembly.
While civil engineer student Eduardo Nater exposed his ideas and referred to Puerto Rico as a state, other students threw paper balls, airplanes and even hard objects. But later when he said that another strike didn’t and will not solve anything, the students feelings towards him changed. The assembly seemed to be unanimous in respect to this decision.
In the assembly two major decisions were made. One motion was passed that gave an ultimatum to the administration to eliminate certification 146 which imposes the $800 fee the students will have to pay in Jan. Just like UPR- Río Piedras, if the administration fails to do this, another assembly will take place on Dec. 14 to negotiate what to do next.
The next motion that was passed almost unanimously confirmed that students were against the fee but against the strike as well. They wanted to pursue and pressure the administration in another way, but no such suggestions were made during the assembly. That’s why on Dec. 7, students are organizing a speak out titled: “If you oppose, what do you propose” in order for the students to suggest alternative methods to pressure the administration.
Meanwhile, on the UPRRP campus the students also gave the administration the same ultimatum as UPRM but agreed on a 48 hour strike Dec. 7 and 8. But the administration removed the main gates of the university. This caused much uproar and one student was arrested for allegedly attacking an officer. The removal of the bars did not stop the students and the strike is still on its way.
The main reason the administration offers for implementing the fee is to pay a credit line to the General Development Bank. According to a presentation made by the Committee of Student Representation of UPRRP, the UPR has failed to charge other private companies and projects approximately $336 million. The fee will not solve this crisis as it will only take care of 16%.
This fee is determined by the amount of money students received from the Pell Grant. This only takes into consideration those who do receive the full grant, but not those who do not. The CRE argues that combining food, housing, transportation, registration fee and other basic needs student expenses amount escalate to $13,932.
The day after the assembly at the UPRM, the students in favor of using the strike as a method of pressure made a poster that imitated the one that said “Against the Fee, Against the Strike UPR Open”. This series of posters read “The ones that don’t fight, PAY. No Strike, No Fee. Now What?”