UPR student reps demand House reject Bill 1003
By John McPhaul
Student representatives to the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) Governing Board demanded on Monday that the island House of Representatives desist from Bill (HB) 1003, the Law to End the Bankruptcy of Puerto Rico, and urged the board to ask the Financial Oversight and Management Board to assign UPR a budget of no less than $800 million.
The enabling measure was approved in the island Senate last week and is now back in the House of Representatives for consideration. Among the amendments incorporated by the Senate are two that impact the UPR, whereby it is assigned a fixed budget of $500 million for five years and an endowment scholarships fund under Senate Bill 499.
“Currently the UPR has had $426 million or 51% of its budget cut in 2017. Our budget is around $500 million and with it the institution already operates with a budget deficit due to the cuts imposed by the fiscal control board,” said graduate student representative Jorge Rivera. “Clearly, HB 1003 violates the institution and destines it to have a deficit operating budget, which jeopardizes its sustainability.”
“The Legislative Assembly must reaffirm its support for the UPR and confront the [oversight board] and demand that it assign a budget of no less than $800 million or respect the formula of 9.6%,” Rivera said. “We cannot ignore that it has been this space for the training of professionals in many areas that has received the biggest cut from the entire government since the austerity measures began under PROMESA [the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act]. At the same time, we call on the fiscal control board to commit to public higher education in the country as it is a vital tool for the economic development that they promote so much.”
The student leaders likewise called on U.S. Rep. Raúl Griljalva (D-Ariz.) and the Natural Resources Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives to take up the amendments to PROMESA so that essential services are declared, including the UPR, in that way protecting the institution with a budget that can be sustained in the future. The request was made in advance of the possible approval of the Debt Adjustment Plan being considered before the U.S. bankruptcy court.
“We know that any decision at this time that allows the issuance of bonds will harm the country, the university and future generations if they do not make sure that the priorities of the government should always be the people before the debt,” Rivera said.
Undergraduate representative Eliud Rivas added that “[t]oday the country needs leaders who have the political will to protect us and ensure a good quality of life for this and future generations.”
“Any decision made in a hurry and without the appropriate analysis will have dire consequences in the near future,” he said. “We invite and request legislators to defend the best interests of the country and, in turn, university administrators to defend our great home, the University of Puerto Rico.”