Puerto Rico: Students protest big tuition hikes

Puerto Rican riot police stand behind students sitting in the road in front of University of Puerto Rico during 2009 strike to stop tuition hikes

Weekly News Update on the Americas, November 16, 2010

 

Students from the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) slowed traffic in and out of San Juan on Nov. 9 when they demonstrated in a major highway to protest plans for raising tuition by $800 in January.

The previous night the Puerto Rican Senate had created a special fund that would provide about $30 million in scholarships to low-income students, but the protesters rejected the measure as inadequate. Students also met in assemblies at the UPR’s Río Piedras, Humacao, Cayey and Arecibo campuses on Nov. 9 to discuss the tuition hike and other issues.

These were the first student assemblies since a 62-day strike last spring that shut down 10 of the UPR’s 11 campuses and defeated most of the government’s austerity plan for the public university, which serves some 65,000 students. The UPR Board of Trustees’ proposal for a special three-year tuition surcharge—originally set at $1,100 a year—was the main issue left unresolved by the strike, but the trustees postponed the increase until January .

The administration of Gov. Luis Fortuño is apparently preparing for renewed student strikes. The Chamber of Representatives voted 35-15 on Nov. 11 to ban any student demonstration that would interrupt the activities of the university; the measure would also require any student demonstration to have the support of the majority of students, as expressed by an electronic vote. The bill was sent on to the Senate, which hadn’t acted on it when the senators abruptly ended their session the evening of Nov. 11.

“This measure is an attack on our constitutional right to free expression and is a total violation of the autonomy of the university,” Mariela Pérez, a spokesperson for the Action Committee of Arecibo University Students (CAUA), told reporters on Nov. 13.

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