Public figures including musicians, singers, and sports personalities from Latin America and Spain have sent messages in support of the students of the University of Puerto Rico, who have been on strike since April 23, 2010, in opposition to the severe budget cuts proposed by the administration to address the university’s 2010-2011 deficits. Of eleven UPR campuses, nine have joined the system-wide strike and two have initiated a cessation of activities. The students are supported by faculty associations, labor unions, community-based and professional organizations, and diverse citizens groups (local and international). Some of the public figures that have sent messages in support of access to education for all are BeBe (Spain), Rubén Blades (Panamá), Andrés Calamaro (Argentina), Carlos Delgado (Puerto Rico/US), Juanes (Colombia), Kevin Johansen (US/Argentina), Ricky Martin (Puerto Rico), Alejandro Sanz (Spain), and Vicentico (of Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, Argentina).
Student demands and proposals for addressing the university budget deficit have been channeled through a Negotiations Committee of student representatives elected by the campus student assembly. They affirm higher education as a public good to be protected by democratic and dialogical participatory processes. Students are calling on University Officials and the Board of Trustees to: annul Resolution 98 which rejects the long standing benefit of tuition waivers for students with a 3.5 GPA, children of employees, athletes, drama students, university chorus, and musicians who represent the University in extramural events; engage fiscal transparency in the administration’s management of the budget, and incorporate representative participation of the diverse sectors of the academic community in its development; not raise tuition; and guarantee that no University campus will be sold to the private sector.
On May 3, 2010 faculty, students and non-faculty personnel, of the Beatriz Lassalle Graduate School of Social Work of the University of Puerto Rico, expressed their support for the students’ defense of public higher education. Part of their statement reads:
Only with inclusive dialogue and the synergy of diverse perspectives can non-violent solutions emerge that will benefit the entire university system. We urge the citizens of Puerto Rico to defend the university as a social investment for all, not just a privilege for those able to pay for it. We call on everyone to be well informed and aware that the core issue of the strike at the UPR System goes beyond the budgetary crisis; it encompasses higher education as a public good and necessary foundation for all levels of education and the role of the University in our society. All citizens, particularly those in the academic community, have the right to critically analyze problems and issues of higher education and actively participate in the development of solutions.
The School of Social Work is asking people to write letters in support of the student demands, preferably in the name of organizations or groups. Letters of support may be sent to the University of Puerto Rico Board of Trustees, PO Box 23400, San Juan, Puerto Rico, 00931-3400; by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org ; or by fax to (787) 758-7196.
For more information on the UPR strike, see http://rojogallito.blogspot.com/
For UNESCO’s position on higher education, see http://www.unesco.org/en/wche2009/
Photo of Alejandro Sanz from http://aquinones.diariolibre.com/?p=23
To listen to the international messages of support, see: