[News] Students Victory After Strike in Puerto Rico

Anti-Imperialist News 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 student’s 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 
Fernández’s 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 university’s 
Board of Regents has agreed to cancel a special 
fee that would have effectively doubled the cost 
to attend the university’s 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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