First Call to Action at UPRM’s Extraordinary Student Assembly

Over 1,600 students swarmed the Mangual Colosseum at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus on Wednesday, November 13 to attend the extraordinary student assembly. This conglomeration of students led to direct action regarding the future of the UPR and the Mayaguez campus through their charisma and passion.

Students entering the Mangual Colosseum, UPRM. Photo by Wendalyn Hernandez (@Wendalynh14 on Twitter). 

The surprising student turnout can be attributed mostly to the panic surrounding proposed budget cuts of $512 million to the UPR system, with a $71 million cut for the upcoming year. These budget cuts would mean closing or conglomerating 8 of the 11 UPR campuses which would make Medical Sciences, Río Piedras, and Mayagüez the only operating campuses and leave students from Aguadilla, Arecibo,  Bayamón, Cayey, Carolina, Humacao, Ponce, and Utuado without their respective campuses. Starting with a successful assembly, students have taken it upon themselves to protect their education and the future of education in the island. 

Some of the latest student manifestations across campus. Chardón and student center, UPRM.. Photo by Adriana Mercado (@nanamacnana on Twitter).

The assembly officially began at 12:22 p.m., explaining the famed Certification 4, which had claimed to cover the enrollment fees for 80% of UPRM’s students. Instead, a Certification 49 had been disbursed to the university to cover the enrollment costs of 126 sub-graduate students and 15 graduate students with uncertain monetary amounts and unspecified dates of distribution to the students themselves. Motions were proposed and passed demanding disbursement and evaluation committees for all scholarships and funds headed into the UPRM system.

Over a thousand students at the Mangual colosseum discussing the future of the UPRM. Photo by @rickcapriles on twitter. 

Talk of strikes began in the assembly’s second point in agenda, where a 36 hour strike was proposed to pressure the administration into giving students much needed public documents detailing the economic aspects of the university. After much debate and consideration among the students, the motion passed and the 36 hour strike officially began at 5:00 pm. If the documents were still out of the students’ hands after the 36 hours, it would become a undefined strike: meaning it would go on for as long as possible. 

As soon as the assembly ended, students banded together and stormed the university’s gates to formally begin their strike. Gates in La Vita, Barcelona, the Biology building, and the Alzamora farm were held by students who rallied and manifested their discontent with the government's treatment of the UPR. 

Students gathered to learn whether the strike was finished. Photo by Natalia Maisonet (@hinatajuvia17 on Twitter).

Students rally to talk about the decisions being made. Photo by Kóvean Félix (@KoveanFelix on Twitter).

The end of the 36 hour strike was announced at 9:35 pm via the student council’s social media and class went back to normal on Friday, November 15 after 5:00 am. This strike became the first step UPRM took to join the fight in protecting the UPR from an uncertain future. More manifestations are sure to take place in the following weeks and months, with a National Student Assembly already called for February 2020, where all 11 campuses are invited to discuss the system’s situation. As the situations arise, students from across the UPR system are sure to defend their education and make their voices heard.