UPRM Students Show Inaction Towards Fee
By: Francisco J. Gonzalez
On the the morning of the 14th December students of the University of Puerto Rico’s Mayaguez campus pack once more into the Manuel F. Espada coliseum. The ultimatum they had stated a week and a half ago.
The students demanded that the coming 800$ stabilization fee be canceled and for the resignation of Ygri Rivera, President of the UPR’s Board of Trustees.
No demands were met and this assembly will be used to decide on the response.
If the last assembly was any indication there won’t be any response.
After the usual paper-throwing and jeering we see Roberto Angueira, President of the General Student Council, step up to the microphone and call to order. The crowd settles down quickly.
It seems this time the assembly will be more organized.
The first speaker, Ana Matias, student in the UPRM, asks if this assembly is ordinary and extraordinary. According to the statements and agreements in the previous assembly, this assembly on the 14th will be ordinary.
After the second and third speakers, the infamous Ovidio Lopez, student at the UPRM, stands and rouses the crowd. Lopez points out how the so-called scholarship that will be issues to UPR students should instead be used to help pay the University’s debt.
Lopez then presents a call to action and debate now that the Board of Trustees has not accepted our demands. Finally, Lopez attempts to bring up the subject of Rio Piedras but is cut off by both the student body and the Council, being told that in this assembly we will only discuss matters pertinent to UPRM.
In retrospect, what was said best represents the general student attitude here in UPRM.
Shortly after Ovidio steps down he is replaced by another UPRM student, Joshua Lopez. Joshua’s statement poses the question as to whether or not it would be possible for the student body to join up and take the fight against the fee straight to the Senate without interfering with Academic or Administrative duties here in the University.
Afterwards, one of the speakers asks why there isn’t a joint General Student Council meeting with members of both Colegiales En Accion and the members of UPR Abierta. The Council answers with some rehearsed line about how it’s unfeasible or how it has been requested several times yet nobody has ever set it.
Soon after, it all descends into the usual chaos and jeering between students and speakers.
The only agreement to which the students come to is a march towards the Administration building as soon as the assembly ends to raise awareness of the stabilization fee’s consequences to not just the rest of the student body but to the campus’s administration. The resolution is met with raucous applause and seems to be the one thing students can agree on.
Near the end, Ovidio Lopez attempts a motion towards a 24-hour strike to add impact to the march, but the idea is shot down by the Council, who state that the time for offering motions has passed.
More jeering and useless debate later, the motion to close the assembly is passed and students flock to the doors.
It is quite a sight to see over a 1000 students marching together in unison towards the Administration building, placards held high and voices loud. The length of the march is past the Agriculture building reaching back down the road to the coliseum. The students carry banners and signs damning the fee and the stubbornness of the Board of Trustees as other bang drums they carry to the beat of traditional songs, the lyrics changed to reflect the situation.
Unfortunately, as the situation across the island has taught us, the Chairman of UPRM is seen driving away from campus as the students reach the building, leaving them to protest and sing to an empty building.
Two weeks later and it appears in “El Colegio” as the students like to call UPRM, the general student response towards the coming fee is a resounding “Meh”. If this response is any indication, one assumes that the fee will not have much of an impact, even though according to the OIIP’s numbers and the information disseminated by Colegiales En Accion over 10,000 students will be unable to pay for tuition.
Yet, on an individual level, students such as Ovidio Lopez, shows his worries about the fee: “I’m with the many who can’t pay for tuition. Neither me nor my parents can afford it and so far the only way I’ve stayed here [in UPRM] is thanks to the exemptions earned through my grades.”
Lopez also recognizes how in this economic environment there is no way that every student who needs money will, as Ygri Rivera has claimed they can, get a job to help cover the costs of tuition. “It’s completely unrealistic to think we can all just toss out resumes and we’ll instantly have a way to pay the tuition. It just can’t happen in this economy.” Lopez states.
Even the faculty, such as Dr. Linda Rodriguez, English Professor at the UPRM expresses her discontent towards the scholarship and the overall response of the student body: “It’s really disappointing to see how everyone is just sitting on their hands about the fee. This won’t end well.”
A Call to Action
By: Francisco Gonzalez
The semester is almost at an end, and it’s time to start setting up our budget for the next. The cost of living has gone up, and gas isn’t getting any cheaper. What’s worse, due to the amazing irresponsibility of the Puerto Rican Government concerning its use of budget, the educational district is now in debt and the most affected of this branch will be the University of Puerto Rico’s eleven campuses. Unfortunately, the Senate and the University’s Board of Trustees will install an $800 “stabilization fee” to counter this debt.
Although the ubiquitous PELL Grant scholarship is a great help towards most students, and those that attend many of these campuses are local to them, a large amount of undergraduates live in off-campus student housing. And, as is commonly known, the costs of rent, gas, food, phone, internet and all those other things we find so necessary to college life add up and, though many detract by saying the scholarship covers the costs of this fee. To make matters worse, as much as one would like to think so, parents of these students are not exempt of the economic hardships this little colony is facing and most of them are unable to pay for their children’s tuition.
So this coming semester we shall face a new hardship with this fee, and as most students across campuses walk about twiddling their thumbs in apathy while others try to fight I hope that they realize what is truly happening in our University, and band together as one University, unified, to fight against this fee and the government who is forcing us to pay for their own mistakes as they have so many times before, before it’s too late.