Posteado por: tucidides | 15 junio 2010

Students Shut Down Puerto Rico’s Largest University, U.S. Media Ignores Them

by Antonio Ramirez June 14, 2010 05:59 AM (PT)

A few weeks ago, when asked whether Puerto Rico should become a state, Idaho Republican candidate Vaughn Hall said, “I don’t care what country wants to be part of America, let’s focus on us first.”

I think Hall needs a history lesson. To clear things up, Puerto Rico was invaded by the U.S. during the Spanish-American War and is now a commonwealth of the United States (a fancy name for a colony, many say). In fact, all Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens.

Unfortunately, Hall’s ignorant comments aren’t surprising, given how invisible the island is in U.S. media. Besides a few singers and athletes, Puerto Ricans are almost never seen on television or in U.S. pop culture, and your average American knows nothing about the island’s politics.

So it’s also not surprising how the mainland media is ignoring the University of Puerto Rico’s student strike — the biggest U.S. strike in recent memory. The protest has shut down 11 campuses and is quickly building towards a violent confrontation between students and police.

It started on April 21, when students declared a 48-hour strike to protest $100 million in budget cuts and a dramatic increase in student fees. The administration refused to negotiate, so students took over UPR’s main campus.

Over seven weeks later, students still have control of the university — and they haven’t been idle. They’ve organized an urban garden, daily lectures, poetry readings and an online radio station — all while the police surrounding the school viciously beat family members and students who try to get food or water to the protestors.

A large part of the students’ anger is directed at Puerto Rico’s Republican Governor Luis Fortuño, who hopes to rewrite a 1966 law that has ensured funding for the university and held tuition steady at about $2,000 a year. If Fortuño gets his way, students receiving Pell Grants will get less financial aid, campus services will be privatized and the university will charge students an additional $1,200 fee.

“It is unfortunate that a miniscule group of students, that do not represent the vast majority of university students, have decided to take matters into their own hands and closed the university gates,” Fortuño says in an email interview.

But contrary to the governor’s claim, the strike has been endorsed by the UPR’s faculty senate and student government.

Ricky Martin, Rubén Blades, Juanes and René Pérez of the band Calle 13 have also sent messages of support, as have 64 Puerto Rican professors from several U.S. universities.

A majority of the island’s population has also taken the strikers’ side. Tired of how double-digit unemployment and poverty continue to wrack Puerto Rico’s economy, they are watching closely as students’ final confrontation with government authorities draws near.

On a recent Tuesday, students rejected the university president’s deadline for their evacuation. If they don’t leave, warns Fortuño, they will face criminal charges and forced removal by police.

The most recent confrontation (in the Sheraton Hotel lobby, no less) between the governor and sympathetic protestors ended in violence, with police beating and arresting several protestors. Let’s hope that the final resolution is less dramatic, and that the students emerge with a victory for dignified public education.

But then, that would probably still be too boring for TV.

Photo Credit: Aarongoodman




A %d blogueros les gusta esto: