Thousands of college students from the University of Puerto Rico approved a three-day, full-campus shutdown Tuesday to protest recent austerity measures, which they say endanger the higher education system.
The students held a general student assembly, after which they marched through the university and closed all entrances to the campus. The students also called for the resignation of top university officials and announced they would consider an indefinite strike if their demands are not met.
At about 6:00 a.m. Wednesday, the eight gates of the UPR were closed and a reported 1,968 students decided to demand the immediate payment of remittances to the UPR by the Department of Finance, and the elimination of the freezing of the so-called “formula 9.6 percent."
The formula 9.6 percent requires the state to assign the University of Puerto Rico 9.6 percent of its annual revenues. The basis of this law is that the state has a social obligation to invest in a public institution of higher learning, to create and maintain a state university, without which no modern society can prosper.
"We must ensure the public funding of the university and cuts cannot be accepted as a solution to the crisis," said Naphtali Sanchez, representative of education to the negotiating committee that was established Monday in the assembly.
General Assembly in 2010 votes on whether or not to strike. | Photo: California Student Union Website / Oduarto Gamelyn
In July, the government faces a debt repayment of US$1.9 billion.
At the main entrance of the campus, student Victor Velez Perez outlined some of the consequences the austerity measures have had on the quality of educational services during the past nine years.
"The administration is not guaranteeing us our own, permanent teachers. We need to have teachers who stay with us to foster that sense of permanence. Having contract teachers, transitory teachers, it affects our training," said Velez Perez.
At the meeting, the students also rejected a study commissioned by the Board of Governors of the UPR to the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, which recommends consolidating functions of regional campuses, including other reforms.
A number of teachers have announced support for the strike, such as Professor Rafael Bernabe, a gubernatorial candidate for the Party of the Working People.