What Went Down During the First Student Assembly of 2019

Last Wednesday, February 6th, the student body of the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus held their first student assembly of the 2018-2019 Academic Year.

The assembly was slated to start at 10:00 AM, but due to a lack of quorum to be able to vote on these subjects, there was a one and a half hour delay. Approximately at 11:36 AM, the assembly began with 996 students which meant that it proceeded as an informative student assembly.

The proposed agenda for the assembly.

 

Following an agenda of several controversial issues, the students anxiously waited for more people to arrive, as the current Vice-President of the Student Council, who was in charge of leading the table due to the ex-President’s destitution a week and a half (31st of January) prior to the assembly, informed the audience on each topic.

Students spoke out about several issues, such as:

  • Sexual aggressors, such as guards and professors, working on campus who shouldn’t even be employed in these types of spaces. About this issue, and about the previous motion approved during the last student assembly regarding the publishing of the list of sexual aggressors on campus, the administration of UPR-RP replied that “they were not in the position to divulge such information,” and that “they have to protect the aggressor’s identity so much as the victim’s,” according to the governing table of the assembly.

  • Accessible spaces and bathrooms for LGBTQ+ students and students of functional diversity.

  • The decadent state of many buildings on campus, including the soon-to-be-demolished building that the School of Communications used to call home, and the on-campus student housing, ResiCampus. In regards to the other student housing, Torre Norte, which was shut down by the administration for maintenance during the last semester, the process will apparently be delayed due to the project being managed with hurricane relief funds from FEMA.

  • The importance of our athletes and how the cuts to their benefits and tuition exemptions could affect their performance, academic accessibility, and the flow of student applications to the institution in general.

  • The need for more accessible spaces and educational resources for students that belong to the deaf community.

At 2:06 PM, the assembly reached quorum with 1,510 students and proceeded to revise all of the previous motions that were to be evaluated later by a group of students from the General Student Council.

Several motions regarding the state of the campus’ infrastructure were put forth. A motion for the divulgement of the list and current state of all properties of UPR-RP was passed, as well as two motions regarding the state of the Sports Complex Building due to its faulty showers and broken lockers.

Not long after that, at 2:42 PM, there was tension between two students during the assembly. In summary, one student, who identified themselves as Coco, presented a point of privilege to remove another student from their duties on the microphone because they felt threatened by this person, who had presented racist, sexist and homophobic behavior to them and other POC on his personal Twitter account. In the end, the assembly came to the conclusion of not removing the student because it went against the parliamentary process, but he was removed from his microphone duties.

Around 3:02 PM, the assembly passed a motion to let the Multi-Sectoral Committee for the University Reform make their presentation since their representative Ricky Raola had to leave early. He presented the purpose of the multisectoral commission, which are:

  • Disseminate proposals and information related to the reform.

  • Summon the university community and its particular sectors to present different proposals and promote their integration.

  • Compile and analyze proposals that arise from the sectors or the Multi-Sectoral Committee of the University Reform.

  • Create informed consensus among sectors and campuses regarding the issue of the University Reform.

  • Develop internal agreements for its effective operation.

  • Keep the university community informed of the process of their work.

He also put forth various motions, including one to open a process of nominations, for the length of a week, to select students who will take part in the Multi-Sectoral Committee of the University Reform representing the Río Piedras campus.

An hour later, the topic moved on to the status of the institution’s accreditation. The “show-cause status” of the UPR system was briefly discussed. An important piece of information is that the MSCHE is going to judge the decision of keeping the accreditation individually, which means each campus will need to send in their reasons to remain accredited.

At 5:22 PM, the assembly ended, but before that, a couple of motions were passed:

  • To convene a second assembly, within the campus, after February 22 and before March with a better publicity campaign.

  • Join the manifestation on February 22 against PROMESA.

Overall, many important subjects were discussed, but a considerable amount of time was lost due to procedural motions that were polarizing for the student body and a governing table that was inefficient in their employment of Bothwell’s Parliamentary Practice.

If there is to be another student assembly before the National Student Assembly, which the student body approved to attend via a motion, we can only hope that next time, the process is more organized and focused.

 

All images and media in this article were provided by members of HCUPR