UPR strike momentum dwindles

by | Jun 1, 2017 | Puerto Rico | Comments

The University of Puerto Rico has remained on strike and its gates closed for nearly 50 days since the national assembly on April 6. Since then 8 out of 11 campuses have held assemblies and voted to discontinue the strike leaving Rio Piedras, Bayamon and Humacao.

Since May 16, the University of Puerto Rico has been fined $5,000 for restoring access to the Río Piedras campus and another $1,000 for every day that it remains closed. This after five students sued the institution, its interim President Nivia Fernández and the rector of the Río Piedras campus, Carmen H. Rivera, among other university officials.

Since then, Carmen Rivera and Nivia Fernández have resigned their posts. Fernández resigned as interim president, though she remains as a possible candidate for the position, in order to avoid being jailed for not complying with the court order to open the Río Piedras campus. This is after her request for police intervention in opening the campus was denied by the Police Superintendent Michelle Hernandez. The Superintendent said that the police will respect the university’s autonomy and not intervene inside the university.

The student negotiation committee has met with members of the Oversight Board and sought answers behind the $450 million budget cut that José Carrión III, president of the Oversight Board, insists must be made. Carrión has stated that the budget cuts “do not come from a vacuum, they come by virtue of the situation in which we find ourselves.”  Meanwhile the students criticized the Oversight Board’s lack of knowledge towards the laws that regulate the UPR and their refusal to show reports the budget cuts would have on the cost of education.

“We are totally frustrated to know that in this moment we are talking and intervening with an Oversight Board that does not have knowledge of what is happening in the [territory]. This is what we must take to the people: that the people that are in power have no knowledge at all about what happens on the island.” Said Carlos Arroyo, student of UPR Humacao and member of the negotiating committee.

In its 4th student assembly, the Rio Piedras campus voted to continue its strike as is, to be lifted when the Board of Governors of the university agrees to the negotiating committee’s pre-agreements which are as follows: that an increase in the cost of credit or impose or increase any fee not be implemented; that the university commits itself to support and collaborate with the Citizen Commission for the Audit of Public Debit; that the Board of Governors and the university’s administration will reiterate their expressions and efforts in rejecting budget cuts to the university and any closing and/or privatization of campuses; solicit that pertinent organizations recognize that higher public education is an “essential service”; that students, professors and non-academic employees not be subjected to disciplinary actions during protesting activities; and that a Board of Institutional Dialogue be maintained.

photo credit: Centro de Comunicación Estudiantil