A Call to the United States Congress to Save the University of Puerto Rico

Mar 13, 2019
8:23 PM

MAYAGÜEZ, PUERTO RICO — A group of organizations belonging to the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) and Puerto Rican communities called upon the United States Congress to save UPR from the crisis that has been caused by austerity measures imposed by the Fiscal Oversight and Management Board (FOMB), with the collaboration of Ricardo Rosselló’s administration and senior UPR administrators. In the document, “Funding the University of Puerto Rico is a Must for Puerto Rico’s Recovery,” the organizations asked that Congress investigate the FOMB’s destructive and unjustified measures regarding UPR, and that action be taken to ensure the century-old institution’s ongoing operation.

The policy brief summarizes UPR’s historic role in Puerto Rico’s economy and society, as well as its central importance for the island’s economic recovery. It also presents the several proposals from organizations like PROTESTAmos (Spanish for Professors Transforming Ourselves in Solidarity Turning to Action), the Puerto Rican Association of University Professors (APPU) and other university groups that offer alternatives to the FOMB’s excessive budget cuts. They include PROTESTAmos’ “SoS UPR Plan,” with its pre- and post-Hurricane María versions, and a parallel proposal by APPU, both of which present scenarios by which the University can be supported as a key public good in the present crisis, but which the FOMB, the current university administration and the Rosselló government have refused to consider on their merits.

At present, UPR’s 11 campuses are threatened with losing their accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), because the severe FOMB-imposed budget cuts raise serious questions as to their economic viability. The FOMB’s fiscal plan for UPR would reduce the university’s budget allocation by more than half by 2023. Given these projections, which UPR President Jorge Haddock insists on characterizing as “manageable,” the policy brief is unequivocal: “We call on Congress to investigate the FOMB’s injudicious and deleterious attempt to dismantle Puerto Rico’s public university system. We ask Congress to request the FOMB provide indisputable, research-based evidence for its disproportionate budget cuts to the UPR, despite the institution’s proven record as an engine of economic growth and its unique potential to contribute to the recovery of Puerto Rico.”

Initiated by the self-organized UPR Mayagüez campus faculty collective PROTESTAmos (Spanish acronym for
Professors Transforming Ourselves in Solidarity Turning to Action), the call has been endorsed by multiple university organizations such as the APPU, The Association of Professors of the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez (APRUM), Self-Organized Professors in Resistance and Solidarity (PAReS), the Association of UPR Managers and Supervisors, the UPR-Mayagüez Student Movement and Student Councils from several UPR campuses. It has also received support from educators’ and community organizations from Puerto Rico and its diaspora such as the Puerto Rico Federation of Teachers (FMPR), the Citizen Front for an Audit of the Debt, Our Revolution Puerto Rico and Defend Puerto Rico. Endorsements continue to come in, and will be registered on protestamos.net, the website where the policy brief is available.

The document calls on Congress to “investigate the FOMB’s conflicts of interest, misuse of funds, political interference and inflated salaries,” and concludes that “Congress should ensure that adequate resources are channeled to the UPR to counter the defunding of this essential public service and historic engine of economic growth and human development” in Puerto Rico.