By Natalia A. Bonilla Berrios
SAN JUAN — Pepper gas, pushes and shoves were todayÂ´s dawn prescription for campus guards and students at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus.
What began as a peaceful 48-hour strike became a confrontation between administrative forces and civil resistance at 5:50 a.m. When a group of students began to close the campus’s seven entrances, the guards prevented it by following the specific orders of maintaining them open, as laid out by the Rector, Ana R. Guadalupe.
By 9:45 a.m., Guadalupe addressed the media to announce an indefinite academic closure starting today until further notice.
“This decision responds to my duty to assure that all classes and administrative tasks in the Campus are given in a peaceful environment”, said Guadalupe.
The Rector made clear that she wonÂ´t accept any student demands after they “did not respect the no confrontation policy” when attacking 19 official guards with tubes, wood pieces, pepper gas and chains.
In response to these incidents, Mr. Kenneth McClintock, Secretary of State, called for the immediate police deployment to watch the external perimeter and enforce the order of closing the entire campus.
“We have been notified that campus conditions and criminal acts will not guarantee the personal security of students who really want to study and professors who want to teach,” told McClintock in a press release.
Ana R. Guadalupe during the press conference.
(Photo credit: Martha R. Alonso)
Meanwhile, students are still camping inside the campus while the police still monitor the situation outside the main campus entrance.
“This decision can change, if in a meeting, the students agree to respect the no confrontation policy,” said Guadalupe when asked if she will reconsider closing the campus.
Each day, the campus stays close, the UPR loses $1 million. In the past decade, there hasn’t been a lost semester among the University of Puerto Rico’s 11 campus sites.
The Students Negotiations Committee will meet Guadalupe today at 3 p.m. to discuss the removal of honor students’ admissions exemptions and the estimated $100 million budget shortfall to confront the UPR fiscal crisis.
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.