MESSAGE FROM THE NATIONAL NEGOTIATION COMMITTEE (CNN) OF UNIVERSITY OF PUERTO RICO STUDENTS TO THE PEOPLE OF PUERTO RICO
JUNE 1, 2010
Fellow students, we’ve shared a common path beneath sun and rain for more than 30 days, guided in this intense journey by a just, simple, and reasonable cause: the defense of our public university education.
We speak too to you, mothers and fathers, workers and citizens, to all of Puerto Rico. We announce to you that this has been a long, intense and difficult process because the President of the University of Puerto Rico, Jose Ramón De la Torre and the President of the Board of Regents, Ygrí Rivera, have done everything in their power to avoid open dialogue, to retard the process of negotiation and to deny our demands. The intransigence and bad faith have been such that they have recurred to lies, defamation and violence.
Despite all of this and thanks to the support of the student community, we have remained firm in our task to defend the delegations of every one of our assemblies: democratic assemblies that represent the majority opinion of our community. Demands so categorical that they have been ratified time and again. If these demands are not addressed, the UPR will not be the university it has been.
For these reasons we have insisted on sitting down at the negotiating table: and we want to continue negotiating. Our demands have remained consistent since the first day.
The first demand has been the repeal of Certification 98 – a document which, if implemented as it was, would have denied the benefit of tuition waivers for students who represent an incalculable value for our university. We can inform you today that we have rescued this right of students and the contribution they make to the University, such that the Board of Regents has committed itself to guarantee our accords. The essential part remains to be assured: that the Board certifies the accord and follows through on its word.
Our second demand is that the politics of privatization not be continued in the UPR system. Specifically, we demand a guarantee that none of the campuses be privatized either by expropriation or by Public-Private Alliances. As a result of our negotiations the Board of Regents committed itself to not use the Law of Public-Private Alliances of 2009, thus protecting the university’s patrimony. But the Board has yet to guarantee this with a certification, thus following through on their word.
The third demand is one of the most worrying and has become the real threat of this entire process: this is the increase in the cost of study, whether by a direct increase in tuition or by a new fee for all students – not int he distant future, but beginning in August, 2010. Each meeting of the CNN with the President of the University and the Board of Regents has confirmed that the university administration has the intention to put the burden of this crisis on the shoulders of the students and their families.
This would represent a burden addition to the 33% increase in 2005, the 12% increase in 2007 and the 4% annual increase beginning in 2007, which all entering freshman would pay until 2016.
It is important that you know, as part of this scaled increase, that the administration committed itself to you the students, that they would not increase tuition during the years in which you are completing your studies. The Board of Regents, guaranteed this in Certification 60. The administration guaranteed this in the letter they sent to you, the students, on June 28, 2007. And the President of the Board of Regents, Ygrí Rivera, guaranteed this in a letter from April, 2009, addressed to the Coordinator of ARRA Funds, in which she says “to raise tuition is not a viable option” and that it “would not resolve the situation.”
But more worrying still is that the ARRA funds were supposed to be used to avoid the imposition of any measure that would affect your ability to continue studying.
As of today the administration has refused to guarantee this commitment at the negotiating table. Instead, they speak of an increase, cloaked as a “special fee,” which could amount to $1,300. For these reasons we demand of the Board of Regents a guarantee that there will not be another increase.
These three demands flow from the enormous budgetary problem that the University is experiencing. The administrators themselves have recognized their inability to collect debts of 300 million dollars that are owed to the UPR and that together with the Public Law #7 are the basis of the deficit. We must thus ask ourselves: who’s should pay for the irresponsibility of the administration? We the students, with a tuition increase to pay loans and debts? To pay for it with the loss of our universities?
Our last demand is that no sanctions be applied to any student. Defending public higher education is not a crime, and to penalize the thousands of students who have been doing this in the course o this long process would be an inputs act. Why inputs? Because you know that this strike has been characterized by a creative, distinct, and non-violent space: we have painted sidewalks and murals, we’ve planted gardens and created radio shows, we’ve created street theater, and confronted with the persistent threats of explosion and the billy club, we’ve respond with songs and flowers.
How can one penalize the planting of trees, the cleaning of green spaces, music and art? But above all, how can one sanction the defense of public education for all of you, for all of Puerto Rico?
With these demands in the process of negotiation and with your solidarity, we are pushing forward what we have demanded since the beginning: a University in which excellence and accessibility for our education is assured. We the students are the essence of the University, which is yours, which is your family’s, which is Puerto Rico’s.
The Board of Regents must assume its historic responsibility and complete what they have begun: negotiation.
Negotiation in which we are representing 64,511 students;
Negotiation to certify the accords with respect to tuition waivers;
Negotiation to certify the prohibition of the privatization of the campuses;
Negotiation to guarantee the cost of study will not be increased;
Negotiation to guarantee that no student will be penalized for defending a public university education, for which all of us pay an which belong to us.
When we have achieved this, no one will have lost, and all will have won, and the University will keep being ours, the university for all of Puerto Rico.
Eleven campuses, One University of Puerto Rico!
(translated by Christopher Powers)
More on the University of Puerto Rico Strike:
- 11.April – Occupation Announced
- 12.April – Occupation Attacked
- 21.April – UPR Strike Begins
- 23.April – More UPR Campuses Join Strike
- 25.April – Strike Continues (photos)
- 27.April – UPR Strike Analysis – Yeast and the Oven
- 3.May – UPR Strike Enters 13th day
- 15.May – Police Surround UPR
- 15.May – UPR undersiege
- 20.May – UPR Strike Analysis – Vietnam & Disney
- 20.May – UPR-RP Riot
- 24.May – UPRM announced indefinite strike
- 25.May – UPR-Carolina Interview – Day 35
- 27.May – Photos from UPR, RP March