OPEN STATEMENT OF SOLIDARITY WITH THE
STUDENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF PUERTO RICO
As Puerto Rican and Latino elected officials in New York City, we stand united in solidarity with students and faculty of all the campuses of the University of Puerto Rico, who have been engaged in a major strike to protest crippling budget cuts and to call on the government for an open and transparent dialogue regarding the future of the university. We are appalled by reports that the Puerto Rican police are blocking access to food and water for these students – sometimes violently. This repression on the part of the Puerto Rican government is of the utmost concern.
Cuts to the university will have a highly destructive impact on the viability of the University of Puerto Rico as the premier public institution of higher learning, and on the lives of thousands of current and prospective students who look to the university as a genuine vehicle for educational and economic opportunities. These cuts have resulted in a moratorium on new tuition waivers, which have typically been offered for academically, athletically and artistically gifted students (Certification 98). This moratorium will only place greater financial burdens on some of the students that are most likely to contribute to university life.
While there may be a need for cost-saving measures, let these be identified and addressed through the process of transparent negotiation put forward by the students, faculty and community at large, the true stakeholders. Limiting access to Puerto Ricans – particularly the overwhelming majority of residents on the island who might not otherwise be able to afford the outstanding higher education the University of Puerto Rico has been offering for over a century, is shortsighted and a violation of their human rights.
Putting up barriers to a college education in Puerto Rico would be a step backwards, socially, economically and culturally. Puerto Rico, like any modern society, needs to sustain and expand an educated workforce. Even in the current recession, the government has the obligation to preserve funding to UPR as a critical investment in the future of Puerto Rico.
In order to achieve a just and rational resolution to this crisis, we urge the Governor to put an end to any and all repressive tactics being taken by police on the UPR campuses. Instead, the government should choose to sit down in good faith with the students, professors and other civic leaders.
The strikers are only fighting to ensure that they, as the young people of Puerto Rico, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or socioeconomic class will continue to have access to opportunities for educational attainment that will enable them, and Puerto Rican society as a whole, to prosper in the future.
Yesterday, the unions in Puerto Rico showed their solidarity with the students and faculty by holding a general strike across the island. A solidarity action was also held yesterday in New York City. We stand behind all those who have championed this cause, which is so critical to Puerto Rico’s future.
Council Member, 8th District
Nydia M. Velázquez
Member of Congress, 12th C.D.
Maria del Carmen Arroyo
Council Member, 17th District
Council Member, 14th District
Erik Martin Dilan
Council Member, 37th District
Council Member, 21st District
Council Member, 2nd District
Council Member, 18th District
Council Member, 10th District