By: Shari J. Ortiz
On Oct. 28 the students once again manifested their unhappiness with the administration of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR). A march took place in the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez (UPRM) in protest of the special fee of $800 the Borders of Trustees plans to impose in January.
The student organization “College Students in Action” (CEA) for its acronym in Spanish) was the organizer and leading of the group.
With music and singing at 10:45 am students started walking from the third floor of the Student Center. With charts like Únete, únete, únete al movimiento y no pagues $800” protesters attracted the attention of the student body and others in campus. The march ended in the courtyard of the Chardon building with a rally.
The energy of the manifestation was so powerful it attracted more students and even faculty and staff members. Students from every department attended. Some were singing, some were dancing and others just walking, but without a doubt they were all fighting for one cause: the right for a public education.
“The protest is to condemn the special fee of $800 that the Board of Trustees approved for January and $400 for the next semesters for four years, which can be extended and raised,” said Alberto Rodíguez Rivera member of the University Federation of Pro Independence Students (FUPI for its acronym in Spanish).
Ricardo Barbosa Ballester, a nursing student added he was surprised and motivated with the amount of students that took part in the event. He pays for his college education with the Pell grant and with the imposition of the fee it’s going to be a struggle. “That money it’s going to leave a hole in my pocket, its $800 less and I will have the same expenses,” he said.
For others it will have devastating consequences. It’s expected for the next academic year that from 13,000-17,000 students won’t be able to afford college.
The administration’s objectives with the fee are: to pay off multimillion-dollar debt and make the system smaller with less students, faculty and staff. Rodriguez added: “The principal objective of the administration is to destroy the UPR system.”
Also the “Celula Universitaria del PIP” (CUPIP for it acronym is Spanish) was handing out flyers that gave background information of the history of similar situations in the past. In addition, they explained their proposals to resolve the situation.
Furthermore, the student manifestations started in the Rio Píedras campus in April. One by one all the campuses got involved in the strike and paralyzed the system. After weeks of negotiations and struggle the students of the National Bargaining Committee managed to keep the tuition waivers for students who received them, but the special fee was delayed for January.
Before the strike UPRM students formed the group CEA because they didn’t feel represented by the General Council of Students. The purpose of the group is to make the voice and opinions of the students heard and make the administration respond to these claims.
Students from all campuses began to show their concern and started organizing protests to increase awareness of the problems and to encourage other students to defend their public education.
The UPR system is in a deficit of $200 millions dollars and was put on probation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education because it failed to meet the resources available to meet the goals as an institution and the leadership and governance in the administration.
However, late October the President of the UPR, José Ramón de La Torre didn’t show the final report he received from the Middle States to the other areas of the university, not even to Ygrí Rivera, president of the Board of Trustees.
In addition, faculty and staff members are being affected with the financial crisis in the UPR system. Faculty members don’t receive promotions and staff member might lose many medical benefits.
In fact, all sector are affected by these events and as Rodriguez said: “For better or worst our generation is the one responsible to save the university and the country.”