Torre Norte, one of the two student dorms at University of Puerto Rico – Río Piedras Campus, will be closing operations during the next Fall Semester.
Torre Norte Residence, across the street from UPR-RP
The reason for closing the student housing is cited as “rehabilitation”. The notification was sent on March 23rd via an email by current chancellor Luis A. Ferrao Delgado. Residents of the dorm are upset and question this unsettling decision.
The closing of this residence is only one of the several changes that will drastically affect the quality of life for UPR students during the next semester. The rest of the changes arrive as part of the newest draft of UPR’s Fiscal Plan that spans from 2017 to 2022. Some of the other changes include an increase in tuition; reducement in scholarships for honor students, athletes, and musicians; and raises in nearly every single fee. The most notable increase is the cost of credits, which would increase to $115 per credit in 2019. The student body is currently assessing their role in these decisions and how they’ll have to adjust their budgets to these changes. Some students will have to drop out as a result of the raises.
The Residence Program at Río Piedras Campus evaluates students by how far they live from the institution and their income, in addition to other criteria. Most of the residents in Torre Norte either cannot afford regularly priced housing in the Río Piedras area or would have a considerably more difficult life if their rent was higher.
In response to the letter that was sent by the Chancellor, students are searching for alternatives that could permit them to stay in what many of them deem ‘’their home.’’ It shouldn’t be a surprise that, given Puerto Rico’s current economic crisis, many students are only able to study because everything on campus is relatively affordable, for the moment.
Not only are local students concerned, but foreigners are also worried. Students from other corners of the world will also have to settle for less if they wish to continue studying at UPR-RP. It can be assumed that the administration will take these students under their wing and give priority to them by assigning them spaces at ResiCampus, the other student dorm. However, there are only so many spaces, meaning that many residents who currently live at ‘’Resi’’ will also have to leave and find other options for housing. Every student that lives on-campus is at risk.
Río Piedras, as it is, has limited housing options in decent living conditions. After Hurricane Maria, the residents of Torre were relocated to different houses in the area that the administration managed to find for them. However, not every student had housing, and some were relocated to other parts of San Juan, such as Condado or Hato Rey. More so, some students were never even relocated and had extreme commutes just to be able to get to class. This meant that some had to spend additional money on gasoline and other expenses that weren’t considered in their original budget. If Torre Norte closes, students, regardless of their economic situation, won’t even have a place near the campus to stay at. The situation is more complex for those who don’t live close to the metropolitan area. Expensive housing could mean the end of an entire learning process full of hardship and sacrifice for UPR-RP alumnae.
The sign reads: “In August, this is what the administration has for you. #WhatAreWeGoingToDo?’”
Above, a picture that I took a few days ago. As seen, students are beginning to organize protest pieces and performances to raise awareness about the situation. The residents seek to gain solidarity from the rest of the student body. Every student knows how difficult it is to manage expenses on a day-to-day basis, so a higher rent plus raised tuition and other fees is definitely worrisome. The residents can only hope that their cry for help is heard. Hopefully, they will be able to establish an effective dialogue with the administration to secure the wellbeing of the student body.