In a closed-door meeting, the University Board of Puerto Rico (UPR) decided to recommend the institutional budget submitted by interim President Darrel Hillman Barrera, which includes a global cut of $187 million.
The consolidated budget of $ 1,344,691,000 - which implies a reduction in the government funding of about $ 162 million - was rejected by nine student representatives before the institution, said one of its spokespersons, Jose Jimenez.
The recommended draft budget, which will be submitted for consideration of the Governing Board of the UPR on Wednesday, contemplates the reduction of $ 95 in employer contribution to the employees health plan, the decrease of 47% in the Christmas bonus of university staff and the elimination of a special non-recurring bonus and the stipend for the maintenance of uniforms. The document also includes the cut or elimination of the employer contribution for staff studies.
Despite the students rejection of the general draft budget, Jimenez said that university students recommended several provisions of the proposal, including those detailed above. They also endorsed the 20% reduction in positions of trust not related to the implementation of public policy; the review of tasks to perform administrative functions and the evaluation of the budget for operational costs. The students delegation recommended that, in this last line, academic and student travel expenses should not be affected.
On the other hand, university students repudiated the provision that considers the reduction or elimination of the budget allocated to vacant posts according to the level of adjustment required in each unit, since this would affect the academic offerings; the non-granting of temporary appointments for recurrent work in accordance with the general regulations of the UPR and the maximization of student participation by sections in classrooms and lecture halls. "This would imply to overcrowd classrooms," Jimenez said.
At an impromptu press conference following the University Board special general meeting, the students spokesperson criticized Hillman Barrera's alleged lack of knowledge of the proceedings of that institution.
"Throughout the meeting, the student body kept informing him about the corresponding proceedings at the University of Puerto Rico and, specifically, the functioning of the University Board. There was even a moment when he made the determination to make the meeting private, with executive nature. The student caucus objected and let him know that Certification 50, 2014-2015, of the University Board establishes that Board meetings have to be broadcasted and are public in nature," he said.
He also alleged an unsuccessful attempt by the interim president to approve the budget, when what had been endorsed in a vote was the "budget discharge report."
The Governing Board
In a brief press release issued by the Central Administration communications office, only the favorable budget recommendation was reported. "This draft budget should now be presented to the UPR Governing Board," states the communication, without addressing the content of the proposal and areas that will experience cuts.
In the morning, the interim president canceled a press conference that he had convened for yesterday at 4:00 p.m.
The interim rectors of the 11 campuses, designated last week, were elusive with the press. Some took different exits of the Central Administration building in Río Piedras.
Immediately, the president of the Brotherhood of Exempt Non-Teaching Employees, Jose Torres, criticized the cuts in employee benefits and explained that if these were implemented, collective agreements would be violated.
"I reject this type of action because it is contrary to the best interests of the workers," noted the union leader, who said that cuts to the positions of trust in Central Administration and in the deaneries of the different units still remain unweighted.
“They are cutting the thread on the workers end,” he added.