Evidence to request opening UPR Río Piedras ruled ‘weak and insufficient’
SAN JUAN – Legal means to force the administration of the UPR Río Piedras Campus to open its gates failed after Judge Lauracelis Roque Arroyo ruled there was no proof to establish that the plaintiffs were suffering damages and hadn’t exhausted all possible recourses.
Likewise, the San Juan Superior Court judge determined that Carmen H. Rivera Vega, chancellor of the University of Puerto Rico’s (UPR) Río Piedras campus has a duty to follow the policies established in the academic institution’s “Coexistence Policy.”
“The fact is the chancellor has said responsibility [maintaining the gates open]; she also has a responsibility to comply with the institutional policy directed at managing this type of situation,” reads the 18-page ruling that denies the mandamus petition, while referencing the “Coexistence Policy,” which establishes dialogue and mediation as means to resolve these types of conflict.
The ruling also shows that the plaintiffs didn’t use all the resources the institution provides to address their grievances. For example, law student Astrid Burgos wrote a letter to the chancellor asking Rivera Vega to keep the gates open. However, instead of delivering it to the Office of the Chancellor, the letter was left at the security office.
The partial ruling also points out that Burgos didn’t follow up on the status of the letter, and that she is unaware of “the nature and reach of the efforts the University is undertaking.”
Judge Roque Arroyo reiterated that the evidence presented by the students suing the UPR “was weak and insufficient,” an opinion that is highlighted through various portions of the document. Among those instances is the plaintiffs’ acknowledgement that there is no “imminent harm,” and that when the legal intervention was requested, the possible harm presented by the plaintiffs was “speculative.”
The ruling also highlights that those on strike are not included in the claim. Rivera Vega testified that student sector is the one keeping the campus closed and inoperative. Furthermore, the chancellor considers the strike illegal. “A stoppage is not legal according to the Laborde Case [UPR v. Laborde],” Rivera Vega said in her testimony.
The student petitioners also alluded to the UPR v. Laborde. In said case, the UPR administration sued student representatives during the 2010 strike in an attempt to lift it. However, the court warned that there is not a direct correlation between the two court claims because in 2010 university officials sued the sector that was in control of the gates, which is not the case in the current claim.
The proceedings will continue Thursday, April 20, when the court will evaluate whether to grant a permanent injunction that would order Rivera Vega and the UPR officials to open the Río Piedras campus’ gates, which have been controlled by students since March 28.
The plaintiffs are students Anamar Menéndez González, Rosaima Rivera Serrano, Carlos Vicente Villega Del Valle, Edwin Francisco Rivera Otero and Gabriela Firpi Morales, who sued the interim chancellor of the Río Piedras Campus along with Carlos Pérez, president of the UPR Government Board.
Since the court filing March 31, the strike has expanded to include eight campuses, with the Mayagüez campus joining most recently. The expectation is that the Carolina campus will join the strike on April 12 and Aguadilla’s will only strike some days of the week.