How the Decisions Taken at Last Week’s Assembly Will Further Affect Our Campus

On May 3rd, 2018, the student body of the University of Puerto Rico - Río Piedras held its first general assembly during the 2017–2018 academic year. The assembly was pushed back until now due to difficulty in finding a suitable space, constant power outages, a lack of organization due to Hurricane Maria’s aftermath, among other situations. Everyone was thinking about the different situations that affected them and were relevant to bring up during the assembly. The last two points on the schedule weren’t discussed due to a motion for closure that was brought up by the student board (CGE) after stating that the quorum had ceased at 1,380 students; a student had suggested continuing the work at hand during the next assembly and the student board conceded. Evidently, the timeframe wasn’t enough to cover every situation that needed to be discussed, which left out a few topics. As well, a large number of students weren’t able to attend; the largest quantity that was tallied during assembly was 2,884 students, leaving out more than half of the student body.

We’ll keep you up to speed with what went down during the assembly.

Possible Elimination of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program

The first topic—thanks to a student that proposed a change in schedule and moved the point further up on the agenda—discussed at the assembly concerned gender policies and trans issues. The assembly applauded the schedule change considering gender issues as well as the topic of gender perspective is usually assigned for the end of the assembly, in previous occasions, which leaves it undiscussed due to time running out or lack of quorum. Following this, a small group of students approached the student board and took a seat at the table.

The principal issue revolved around a certification which states that for a Minor to be certified, it needs to be part of the curriculum of a Bachelor's Degree. The Women’s and Gender Studies Program, which is considered a Minor, would need to be included under the banner of a Bachelor’s Degree from the College of General Studies. The certification, in that case, implies that the people who design the curriculum would be the same people who design the General Studies Degree. Students from the Women’s and Gender Studies Program showed their concern as they feel that it’s an attempt to censor them and take away their platform for debating gender from a political standpoint. The assembly agreed to “support the coordination, autonomy and faculty existence of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program’’ as independent from the General Studies Degree. Programs like this are essential in promoting an interdisciplinary education that permits students to get an education on topics that aren’t normally discussed in our day-to-day jobs. Essentially, these spaces are necessary to teach values, theories, and viewpoints that are extremely relevant to the current struggles for gender equality.

Another motion that was approved bargained for promoting a policy that would respect and protect trans individuals across the entire UPR system. Then the final motion proposed during this point on the agenda was the study and release of sexual offenders on campus including employees, such as professors, and students. As well, it was requested that these names were made public as soon as the list was officialized. The motion passed with a date limit of being completed before the next academic year. Hopefully, these motions will contribute to creating a more inclusive academic space.

Accessibility to ASL Course

One of the first topics addressed in the earlier part of the day after gender perspective was to request the viable accessibility of ASL classes for students. ASL courses are well-known for remaining within the College of Education’s curricula. However, this limits the number of students outside of this faculty that can participate. The assembly approved the following motion: “Motion to ensure that the ASL course isn’t restricted by priority for specific academic concentrations; to ensure that the course counts as an option for  the foreign language requirement for students from the College of Humanities; to ensure that any student can enroll without needing the prerequisite course (EDES4006); and to ensure that it’s on the same terms as other languages that are taught on-campus.’’ If the administration decides to implement this, it would definitely create a more welcoming space to the deaf community who studies at UPR-RP as well as allow for more students to access this course and learn valuable and inclusive language skills.

Torre Norte Might Cease Operations

Almost 400 students are on the verge of searching for a new dorm. As covered in this previous article, the UPR-RP administration is planning on closing down one of the two student dorms, Torre Norte. The main issue with the students is the lack of transparency concerning the rehabilitation process and how unwilling the administration seems to compromise. Several suggestions have been made from the students who stay at Torre such as fixing the floors one by one instead of all at once. What’s more worrisome is that, according to the report made by residents of Torre at the student board during assembly, the administration is basing these renovations on an infrastructure report from 2015 which is, for the most part, outdated. In other words, most—if not all—of what allegedly needs to be fixed has been dealt with to comply with structural regulations. Students are focusing on acts of protest to denounce this situation. A motion to march to an Academic Senate meeting, on May 17th, was approved by the student body.  

The Fiscal Plan

We’ve seen the charts, and we’ve done the math. What is being asked of the University is a strain in our pockets and our education. The fee for requesting graduation will rise from a reasonable $27 to a high $80. The Fiscal Plan has already been approved by the UPR Governing Board for the next academic year 2018–2019. During the assembly, the student board simply proceeded to give a brief explanation of what has been approved and where we stand. They even went as far as to point out that roughly 65–68% of the student population on campus depends on financial aid. Considering this, the increase recommended for the institution would only limit the number of students that will be able to continue their studies in the upcoming years.

To Paro or not to Paro

The final part of the night—which probably was the main reason for most of the people there have shown up in the first place—was the proposal of a paro of 72 hours for the campus. In the end, it did not pass. Various points were debated in favor and against it, but students rather decided not to close the campus for that amount of time. Instead, a sal pa fuera was proposed for Thursday, May 10, 2018. This was held from 10:00 am to 8:30 pm. Many emotions were present during this back-and-forth discussion of what exactly was best for the institution. However, those that were pro-paro will have a chance to propose more options later on considering a motion for a second assembly and a national assembly both passed.

One of our very own UPR contributors, Maria Celeste Sanchez, debating in favor of the sal pa fuera.

 

What does this mean for the Rio Piedras Campus?

We’re facing a semester full of drastic changes. Curriculum changes, tuition raises, and scarce resources seem to define the next academic year. On one hand, the student body could hope that increasing fees would benefit the student body as it would mean better services, but an air of pessimism seems to define most of us. More than ever, students need to band together and organize their thoughts and goals if they expect to either mitigate the impact of these proposed changes or prevent it altogether. In the end, we saw positive and negative proposals during the assembly, but one thing is for sure and that is that the student body is aware and thinking of options to help solve this as best as it can be resolved.

The important thing, in the end, is to be informed. This could change the public education system as we know it, and future generations that attend any of the UPR campuses will be affected. Make sure to keep up with our page since we’ll be posting more updates on what’s going on in Rio Piedras.

 

Images acquired from Pulso Estudiantil.

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