[News] Students Victory After Strike in Puerto Rico
news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Jun 17 21:26:39 EDT 2010
Students Victory at UPR Confict
June 17, 2010
After more than four hours of discussion, student
leaders from the National Bargaining Committee
and the University of Puerto Rico administration
signed and certified the final agreement which
could soon bring an end to the 55-day strike at
the UPR. The NBC leadership achieved the four
fundamental claims the students had continuously
insisted on. The students at all 11 campuses
must still ratify the agreements. The issue of
penalties for the striking had been the stalemate that impeded the agreement.
Wednesday, after a heated debate among members
of the Board of Trustees, a consensus on language was finally reached.
INS learned that the intervention of trustee
and UPR ex President Norman Maldonado, was key in
convincing Chairwoman of the Board of Trustees
Ygrí Rivera, to drop her consistent hard line
regarding the application of penalties to the
strikers. Maldonado had not previously intervened
because he was off the island.
Maldonado and Rivera had strong encounters; he
favored the students language, while she
maintained her position of not bargaining, a source told INS.
The final agreement on the subject of penalties
established that no university authority would be
able to suspend or expel a striker through a
summary process. It was agreed that no charges
will be made against students and members of the
academic community while exercising their
legitimate rights, whether or not they
participated in marches, meetings, protests or
any other strike-related activity.
If the university administration were to apply a
existing rule against a student, and he or she
were found guilty through an administrative
hearing, the university guarantees the appeals
process will be carried out quickly. It also
acknowledges that any delay will not affect the students academically.
The Board of Trustees acknowledged that if
examiners were to be appointed to process cases
against students, they must be ex-judges.
The process is an extraordinary victory for
students, said NBC lawyer Frank Torres Viada.
The big achievement is that, regarding
penalties, it is a process that guarantees
fairness, impartiality and legality, far beyond
the current dispositions of the UPR student rules.
The Board of Trustees also agreed not to increase
tuition through a special fee at the start of
next semester. However, according to
the agreement, if the trustees consider it
necessary to set a fee, the amount will not
exceed the amount representing the increase in
Pell Grant for years 2009-2010 & 2010-2011, based
on the grant given in 2008-2009.
This must not be construed as acceptance by the
NBC or the students, the document says.
The agreements come after Judge José Negrón
Fernándezs order Friday mandating a mediation
process between the NBC and the Board of
Trustees, permitting both parties to put their
controversial issues on the bargaining table.
The mediation process in which ex-Judge Pedro
López Oliver was appointed, started formally on
Saturday, and arose from a legal claim submitted
by attorney Torres Viada representing student
leaders René Vargas and Verónica Guzmán.
The annulment of Certification 98 and the
acceptance that none of the campuses will be
privatized under the Public-Private Alliance
project were two other achievements.
Starting today, students have five days to
convene student meetings at every campus to
ratify the agreements. Once the agreements are
ratified, the gates of all campuses will open,
and administrative and academic work will resume.
June 17, 2010
Students Gain After Strike in Puerto Rico
MIAMI Thousands of students at the University
of Puerto Rico who went on strike two months ago
to oppose severe budget cuts declared victory on
Thursday after reaching an agreement with administrators.
As part of a deal brokered by a court-appointed
mediator, students would end their strike one
of the largest and longest such walkouts in
Puerto Rican history in exchange for a number
of concessions. Most notably, the universitys
Board of Regents has agreed to cancel a special
fee that would have effectively doubled the cost
to attend the universitys 11 public campuses.
The deal also includes a promise that there will
be no sanctions against strike organizers, who
clashed at times with the police at the main Río
Piedras campus outside San Juan.
The accord must still be approved by a general
assembly of university students, which is
expected Monday. Christopher Powers, a literature
professor at the Mayagüez campus, said it was
nearly a complete victory for the students,
noting that they failed to get a promise that
there would be no large tuition increase next
year. Professor Powers said planned cuts later
this year to the salaries and benefits of
professors could set off another round of conflict.
The fact that a student movement was able to
force the administration and the government to
sit down at the negotiating table and concede to
nearly all their demands is a very important
precedent, Professor Powers said. It will serve as an inspiration.
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