UPR students, professors go on strike
SAN JUAN – Among the proposals approved by their respective national assemblies Wednesday, April 5, strikes were put into effect by University of Puerto Rico (UPR) students and faculty across the 11 campuses. The students approved a systemic strike and the professors approved a motion for a 24-hour stoppage for May 1.
While both assemblies were taking place, UPR interim President Nivia Fernández was meeting with the university’s board. This sparked controversy, not just because it conflicted with the assemblies, but also because it was held in a Puerto Rico Convention Center conference even though the university board has its headquarters at the UPR’s Central Administration Building.
The Puerto Rican Association of University Professors’ (APPU by its Spanish acronym) national assembly allowed partial participation of non-affiliated professors. The National Student Assembly, meanwhile, included the participation of 10 of the school’s 11 campuses, as well as the Escuela de Artes Plásticas, or School of Visual Arts and Design, (EAP by its Spanish initials) and the Music Conservatory of Puerto Rico.
Besides their walk-out, the professors are standing behind a proposal to raise taxes on foreign companies by 1.5% so the added revenue is made available to the academic institution. Furthermore, the APPU assembly is asking for a boycott of the companies that have “benefited from the crisis and are collaborating with the fiscal control board,” the union’s vice- president, Javier Córdova, said.
Córdova added that to position adopted at the APPU assembly is to express support for “any demonstration in defense of the University of Puerto Rico and against the budget cuts.”
Both the student and the professor assemblies are asking for the removal of interim president Fernández, which is vying for the presidency. The students went a step further and are asking for the disqualification of both Fernández and former UPR President Miguel Muñoz as potential candidates to preside over the institution.
While Muñoz received Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s endorsement this week, it was announced that a special prosecutor will conduct an investigation of top-ranking members of Muñoz’s team while he was president of the university for potential fraud involving public funds.
On the other hand, students are asking for an audit of the public debt by the recently dismantled Public Debt Audit Committee. Said committee had found irregularities in $33 billion in bond issuances before being defunded by Rosselló. The resolution approved for the strike also includes rejecting proposed budget cuts or tuition hikes for the public institution.
For Mario González, a spokesperson for the students striking in UPR’s Río Piedras campus, the strike’s escalation reflects the student movement’s toughened stance against the funding cuts the UPR is facing, among other concerns.
“Together, we are going to stand against the fiscal control board, in favor of an audit [of the public debt], the restitution of funds for the audit commission and the assurance that there will be no budget cuts to the UPR system,” González said.
Seven of the campuses began striking Thursday while the Carolina campus will join the strike April 12. The remaining campuses are expected to ratify the strike in upcoming assemblies.