PUERTO RICO DAILY SUN: Students’ win in University of Puerto Rico confict

June 17, 2010

Wednesday, after a heated debate among  members of the Board of Trustees, a consensus on language was finally reached.

 INS learned that the intervention of trustee and UPR ex President Norman Maldonado, was key in convincing Chairwoman of the Board of Trustees Ygrí Rivera, to drop her consistent hard line regarding the application of penalties to the strikers. Maldonado had not previously intervened because he was off the island.

“Maldonado and Rivera had strong encounters; he favored the student’s language, while she maintained her position of not bargaining,” a source told INS.

The final agreement on the subject of penalties established that no university authority would be able to suspend or expel a striker through a summary process.  It was agreed that no charges will be made against students and members of the academic community while exercising their legitimate rights, whether or not they participated in marches, meetings, protests or any other strike-related activity.

If the university administration were to apply a existing rule against a student, and he or she were found guilty through an administrative hearing, the university guarantees the appeals process will be carried out quickly. It also acknowledges that any delay will not affect the students academically.

The Board of Trustees acknowledged that if examiners were to be appointed to process cases against students, they must be ex-judges.  “The process is an extraordinary victory for students,” said NBC lawyer  Frank Torres Viada. “The big achievement is that, regarding penalties, it is a process that guarantees fairness, impartiality and legality, far beyond the current dispositions of the UPR student rules.”  

The Board of Trustees also agreed not to increase tuition through a special fee at the start of next semester.  However, according to the  agreement, if the trustees consider it necessary to set a fee, the amount will not exceed the amount representing the increase in Pell Grant for years 2009-2010 y 2010-2011, based on the grant given in 2008-2009.

“This must not be construed as acceptance by the NBC or the students,” the document says.
The agreements come after Judge José Negrón Fernández’s order Friday mandating a mediation process between the NBC and the Board of Trustees, permitting both parties to put their controversial issues on the bargaining table.

The mediation process in which ex-Judge Pedro López Oliver was appointed, started formally on Saturday, and arose from a legal claim submitted by attorney Torres Viada representing student leaders René Vargas and Verónica Guzmán.

The annulment of Certification 98 and the acceptance that none of the campuses will be privatized under the Public-Private Alliance project were two other achievements.

 Starting today, students have five days to convene student meetings at every campus to ratify the agreements. Once the agreements are ratified, the gates of all campuses will open, and administrative and academic work will  resume.

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