By Ankur Singh
Puerto Rico remains in the midst of a massive fiscal crisis with over $72 billion in debt. To address this crisis, in 2016 the United States Congress created a Fiscal Oversight Board that was not elected through the passage of the PROMESA ACT in order to manage and reduce Puerto Rico’s debt.
The seven-member board was appointed by former President Barack Obama and includes many people from the finance and banking industries.
The board has proposed a series of austerity measures to cut funding for many of the island’s institutions. In particular, the University of Puerto Rico, with its eleven campuses across the island, has been hit particularly hard.
The university system is at risk of losing its accreditation, student tuition is increasing, and many faculty are at risk of losing jobs. On February 13, 2019, members of the Puerto Rico Association of University Professors rallied outside the governors house in Old San Juan to voice their opposition to the cuts.
Jimmy Seale Collazo, a professor at the University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras campus said looked at the impact of losing accreditation. “That would be an absolute catastrophe for this country,” he said. “And if that were to happen the primary responsibility for it would rest on the tenant of that house back there [the governor of Puerto Rico], together with the fiscal oversight board that was appointed without the votes of anyone here, together with the governing board of the UPR, together with the President of the UPR, and the Chancellors of the eleven campuses.”
Javier Cordova, the president of the Puerto Rico Association of University Professors, said the association still hasn’t had any response from the governor after attempts to set a meeting. “Today we’re here to send him a letter,” he said in Spanish.
Puerto Rico Association of University Professors holds a rally in front of the Governor’s Mansion in San Juan to protest budget cuts due to austerity measures. (Photo by Ankur Singh)
University of Puerto Rico professors rally after Puerto Rico’s Fiscal Control Board proposed budget cuts to the university system in an attempt to lower spending and address the island’s debt crisis. As a result tuition would almost double for every student. (Photo by Ankur Singh)
An organizer and professor with the Puerto Rico Association of University Professors speaks at the rally. The eleven campuses of the University of Puerto Rico are at risk of losing their accreditation. (Photo by Ankur Singh)
A woman speaks to the crowd attending the rally. University professors are concerned about the increasing reliance on lower-paid adjunct faculty as opposed to tenured professors. (Photo by Ankur Singh)
A woman speaks to the crowd as police officers observe from behind. (Photo by Ankur Singh)
People in the crowd listen to the speakers at a rally organized by university professors against budget cuts. (Photo by Ankur Singh)
A man holds a sign which reads in Spanish “The UPR (University of Puerto Rico) is at risk of budget cuts” (Photo by Ankur Singh)
People in the crowd applause and cheer at a rally against the University of Puerto Rico budget cuts. The university system is the only public university in the island with over 50,000 students. (Photo by Ankur Singh)
A woman speaks to the crowd as another woman holds a sign next to her that reads, “Without public universities there is no future” (photo by Ankur Singh)
Two men greet and laugh while seeing each other at the rally (photo by Ankur Singh)
Photo at top: The Puerto Rico Association of University Professors holds a rally in front of the Governor’s Mansion in San Juan to protest budget cuts due to austerity measures. (Photo by Ankur Singh/Medill)