By Natalia A. Bonilla Berrios
SAN JUAN — There will not be anymore wake-ups at 5 a.m. Neither will the early morning search for a parking space around the campus will be much of a problem. The Rio Piedras Campus of the University of Puerto Rico will be entirely closed until July 31.
UPR President, Jose Ramon de la Torre, YgrÃ Rivera and the Campus’ Rector Ana R. Guadalupe took this official measure in response to the students’ ratifying their strike on Thursday, May 13.
What first started as a movement, to ensure group support in a General Assembly held at the Puerto Rico Convention Center, became a march towards Capitol Hill, where the public gathering turned into a political show after some students lowered the U.S. flag and raised instead the Puerto Rican one.
By then, Guadalupe had published on the campus website an official declaration in which she ordered the campus closure until June 15th, when the 30-day rule of the UPR’s bylaw apply.
According to Section 32.4.10 “in case there is clear and imminent danger in the exercise of the rights renowned in the present Article (Extracurricular activities of the University) that serves as an interruption, obstruction or substantial disturbance of the University’s regular work…the Rectors can, by an informed and written resolution, suspend temporarily those rights in their respective education centers.”
“The prolongation of this situation has forced me to take the inevitable decision of not permitting anyone to enter the site, except police personnel,” Guadalupe acknowledged.
Messing with Human Rights
But on May 14th, the scenario changed. After a violent incident in Gandara Avenue’s gate where Luis A. Torres Muller tried to cross food between the bars to his son inside the campus, the Tactical Force didn’t let him.
The father was attacked by the police and ultimately arrested. He became the face of many parents who had dealt with the same situation during the day.
Also, following this incident the Police evicted all the students who inhabited the inside of the Campus Residence as the water cut went into effect.
At 7 p.m., the UPR Syndicate’s president, YgrÃ Rivera, announced that the campus will stay closed until July 31, a measure approved by de la Torre and Guadalupe.
“Here I show you a copy of the certification #126 of the UPR’s Sydicate with which the University’s administration is trying to coerce the freedom of speech”, told Carlos Pagan, student member of the Syndicate, about the document that states the permanent closure of the Campus.
He, who said he voted against this decision, has publicly asked for de la Torre and Guadalupe’s resignations.
Students living in tent camps inside the Campus are only allowed to get out but never to get back in again. Parents and community leaders are still trying to throw groceries in bags above the gates’ bars.
Right now, the UPR’s system is almost paralyzed after ten of the 11 campus have declared a permanent strike in support of the Rio Piedras Campus and against administration policies which include a budget cut of $100 million and the elimination of Sports and Honor’s fee exemption also known as Certification #98.
At the Rio Piedras Campus, the students’ strike started on April 20th and the National Negotiating Committee -composed of delegates from all ten campuses – is still trying to meet and make a deal with the Central Administration.
Learn more about Natalia
Natalia A. Bonilla Berrios is a junior at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) majoring in Journalism and minoring in Political Science, International Relations. Natalia has a 3.90 GPA.
She was the former president of the UPR student chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, a member of the National Society of Collegiates and Scholars and was selected for the ‘Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges’ program, during her freshman year.
In addition, she has worked as an intern reporter for DiÃ¡logo Digital, Puerto Rican Center of Investigative Journalism, served as a staff writer for ParÃ©ntesis newspaper, and as a volunteer reporter for IDentidad magazine.
Bonilla has served as student representative for the Freedom of the Press Center of Puerto Rico and has been selected as one of the UWIRE’s Top 100 Student Journalists of 2009.
She was selected for the Student Camp at Unity 2008, the quadrennial Journalists of Color Convention and also, as a volunteer for the 2009 International Year of Astronomy.