The Governing Board of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR, by its Spanish acronym) will make its final attempt today to approve the fiscal plan that it must submit in two days time to the Oversight Board to steer the financial future of the university system, after the regular meeting in which the document was being evaluated were abruptly interrupted by a joint student and professors’ protest.
Members of the institution’s steering body were expected yesterday to approve a fiscal plan that contemplated maximum adjustments of $241 million per year for the UPR until fiscal 2025-2026, a proposal on which acting president, Nivia Fernández, worked on along with her team and members of the Executive.
However, after three hours of meeting, the protesters who had been protesting all this time around the Central Administration building, located in the Río Piedras Botanical Garden, managed to gain entry and barged into the office located in the second floor where the meeting was being held.
The protesters took over the space for a period of about a half hour, after which the members of the Governing Board adjourned the meeting and vacated the building.
Because of this, today the Governing Board will hold an electronic referendum to put to a vote the fiscal plan, which was partly explained, said the president of that body, Carlos Pérez.
“We are working as best we can, working based on the current reality of Puerto Rico, and (then) these things happen (...) The UPR fiscal plan is going to be set by the Oversight Board, and it will set it to whatever they want it to be. We were trying to work out something that the university could live with,” said Pérez, who last night indicated that she is considering resigning from her position.
No in-person meeting is planned for the Governing Board from here to Sunday –the day in which it must deliver the fiscal plan to the OB – because the protesters promised to return and “safety cannot be guaranteed,” said Pérez.
If the UPR’s governing body fails to support a fiscal plan, the OB will have the power to establish the financial rules to which the university system will have to adhere.
They demand a commitment. The breach by students and professors marked the high point of over three hours of protest. At 7:00 p.m., as they chanted, students and professors surrounded the table around which sat the members of the Governing Board, the acting president, and other university administrative personnel. Once there, they stated their rejection to any fiscal plan that might involve cutbacks to the State university budget, as well as increases to student tuition.
“We will not allow higher education to become more expensive,” yelled a young woman inside the office.
“Nivia, resign!” was one of the choruses heard most.
Protesters managed to make some members of the Governing Board sign a document undertaking to reject any plans on cutbacks to the university, as well as supporting an audit of the Country’s public debt. These are, basically, the same demands which drove nine campuses to join in a systemic begun early this month.
“The only reason as to why this is happening today is because this body has for years failed to heed the students’ demands,” said one of the students.
Prior to entering the venue by force, the students attempted to negotiate for representatives of the negotiations committee to hold a dialogue with the Governing Board. One of the student representatives to the governing body, Gilberto Domínguez, submitted a motion to allow entrance by the youth, but it was not approved.
The fiscal plan evaluated by the Governing Board contains forecasts for cutbacks and new income the UPR would receive during the next 10 years, as well as the administrative restructuring to be implemented in the 11 campuses and a new payment schedule with tuition costs based on the student’s family income.
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