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UPR Voluntary Report MSCHE June 1st 2010 PDF

UPR Voluntary Report MSCHE June 1st 2010 PDF

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Published by Manuel Messon

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Published by: Manuel Messon on Jul 15, 2010
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07/14/2010

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June 1, 2010Vice Presidency for Academic Affairs
V
OLUNTARY
R
EPORT TO THE
M
IDDLE
S
TATES
C
OMMISSION ON
H
IGHER
E
DUCATION ABOUT THE
S
TUDENT
S
TOPPAGE AT THE
U
NIVERSITY OF
P
UERTO
R
ICO
  ________________________________________________________________  
Currently, ten (10) of the 11 institutional units that comprise the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), namelythe Río Piedras (RP) and Mayagüez Campuses, UPR in Cayey, Humacao, Arecibo, Bayamón, Ponce,Aguadilla, Carolina and Utuado, are in a state of indefinite illegal strike declared by student groups, inresponse to the anticipated fiscal measures that the University will have to take in lieu of a 14% budgetreduction for the 2010 fiscal year. Said reduction results from decreased tax revenues on which the 9.6%university budget is calculated and the overall deficit that the central government faces, which hinders anyspecial pecuniary assignments to alleviate the crisis.As soon as the RP student assembly voted for the 48-hour stoppage that marked the beginning of thepresent student illegal strike, the Vice President of Academic Affairs of the UPR apprised Dr. Luis Pedraja,Vice President of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) and liaison of the agencywith the UPR, of the situation, and has maintained communication about the status by e-mail andtelephone. Taking advantage of Dr. Pedraja’s scheduled visit to a local institutions, a meeting was held onMay 17, 2010, with the President, Vice Presidents, Finance and Budget Directors of the UPR, the Presidentof the Board of Trustees, the Acting Chancellor of the RP Campus, the Education Advisor and the Chief of Staff of the Governor of Puerto Rico. In this meeting, a full disclosure of the facts surrounding the studentstoppage was presented to Dr. Pedraja, as well as the current budget situation and the contemplatedmeasures at the present stage of the budget process to assure the necessary financial stability to support,and more importantly, safeguard the quality of the institution’s educational, research and service mission,purposes and programs.As a result of the meeting, it was agreed with Dr. Pedraja that the Voluntary Report, detailing the impact of the present situation on University compliance with the Requirements and Standards listed below would besubmitted in order to be considered by the Commission on its June meeting.1)
 
Requirement of Affiliation 3 
 
and Standard 11
, that require the institution to be operational, withstudents actively pursuing their degree programs, and to provide the appropriate program lengthrequired for the granting of credits and degrees.2)
 
Standard 3, Resources 
, that requires the availability and accessibility of the necessary resources toachieve the institution’s mission and goals.3)
 
Standard 4, Leadership and Governance 
, that requires a system of governance that clearly definesthe roles of institutional constituencies in policy development and decision making, with sufficientautonomy to assure institutional integrity and to fulfill its responsibilities of policy and resourcedevelopment, consistent with the mission of the institution.
 
V
OLUNTARY
R
EPORT TO THE
M
IDDLE
S
TATES
C
OMMISSION ON
H
IGHER
E
DUCATION ABOUT THE
S
TUDENT
S
TOPPAGE ATTHE
U
NIVERSITY OF
P
UERTO
R
ICO
 Page 2
 ________________________________________________________________ 
 The unrest started at the RP Campus when a 48-hour stoppage was slated for April 21, 2010 during astudent assembly on April 13
th
. The other units gradually joined by declaring stoppages, which later degenerated into an indefinite illegal strike. In most campuses, student assemblies have been contentious,often poorly attended, and with questionable means to guarantee and limit the participation to
bona fide
 students, and the appropriate use of parliamentary methods, bringing into question the legitimacy of thedeterminations. For example, it became a pattern in units where a strike vote was not obtained the first timearound that additional assemblies were prompted by different student groups until a strike vote wasobtained.To this day, the number of students blocking the gates at the respective units remains very small, butviolent incidents and damage to University property has been reported mainly in the RP, Mayagüez andUPR Carolina campuses. The major quandary to date remains at the RP Campus, where a group of protesters, on the order of 100-200 and not all necessarily students, remain inside the Campus, have donesignificant damage to property, have built barricades that prevent the flow of traffic and pedestrians, andcontinue limiting access to the premises by various forms of intimidation.There is substantial evidence that a strike at UPR, and especially at the RP Campus, was planned sinceOctober 2009, regardless of the particular motives invoked, to serve as the epicenter for an island widelevel strike against the central government’s measures to face its current deficit. As shown throughout thisReport, the students’
initial points of contention
eventually degenerated into a constantly changing set of grievances and demands.The UPR has taken several steps to try to remedy this challenging situation, namely: (1) diplomacy,including
Dialogue and Mediation
; (2)
Enforcement
, including assistance of the state police at the gatesand petitions to the courts to maintain open access to the RP, Mayagüez and other campuses; (3) an
Information Campaign
, to alert students, the University Community, the taxpayers and the people of Puerto Rico at large, as stakeholders of the state university, of the implications and consequences of thecontinuation of the student strike.
I
NITIAL
P
OINTS OF
C
ONTENTION
 
Originally, the issues that allegedly prompted the strike votes were Certification Number 98 (2009-2010) of the Board of Trustees that calls for the development of a new tuition exemption policy, and theimplementation of a Summer Course Fee in some institutional units.
 
Certification 98 
The Board of Trustees issued Certification 98 in early 2010 in response to the findings by its InternalAuditors, which revealed the need of standardized criteria for the granting of exemptions throughout thesystem. Further studies revealed that besides the exemptions authorized by the Board of Trustees for employees and relatives, honor roll, graduate teaching assistants and others, other exemptions have beenimplemented throughout the system without the required authorization of the Board, such that to date, 3 outof 10 students get tuition exemptions, which amount to approximately 25% of the system´s yearly tuitionincome.
 
V
OLUNTARY
R
EPORT TO THE
M
IDDLE
S
TATES
C
OMMISSION ON
H
IGHER
E
DUCATION ABOUT THE
S
TUDENT
S
TOPPAGE ATTHE
U
NIVERSITY OF
P
UERTO
R
ICO
 Page 3
 ________________________________________________________________ 
 At the request of the University Board, the reports, studies and preliminary recommendations for theimplementation of a tuition exemption policy were brought to their consideration. Instead of providingspecific recommendations for the development of the policy by the Board of Trustees, studentrepresentatives to the University Board requested the total repeal of Certification 98. Therefore, the Boardof Trustees continued analyzing information towards the development of the policy, since failing to act onthe findings of its Internal Auditors report could lead to a referral to the Comptroller of Puerto Rico.
 
Implementation of a Summer Course Fee 
In response to the increasing limitations in summer course offerings, due mainly to the prevailing facultycompensation level policy of 1.5 times its monthly salary for a 3 credit summer course, former PresidentAntonio García Padilla recommended in 2009 to the Board of Trustees to lift said compensation policy for atwo year period and to allow the institutional units to take the necessary measures for a self sustainablesummer offer, which meant the establishment of a Summer Course Fee and to reduce the facultycompensation rate. This is the second year of the two year period.All institutional units, except for the Medical Sciences Campus, proposed significantly reduced facultycompensations, and 8 units proposed a Summer Course Fee that ranged from $5 to $35 per credit, whilethe RP Campus identified the necessary funds to avoid imposing a fee. In addition, for the first time, thePELL Grant can cover the cost of summer courses for eligible students, including all fees. Nevertheless,the implementation of a Summer Course Fee was stated as one of the main reasons for the initial RP 48-hour stoppage and subsequent indefinite strike of 10 units of the system. However, it was not pursued as atalking point with the University Administration Officers, as shown below.
D
IALOGUE AND
M
EDIATION
 
The RP student assembly designated a Negotiating Committee (NC) to discuss their grievances with thePresident of the UPR. The Puerto Rico Civil Rights Commission entered as mediators between the NC, thePresident, and the Board of Trustees, and quickly made significant progress in identifying the main issuesand the possible avenues for their resolution. Surprisingly, after a few meetings, the NC refused thecontinuation of the participation of the Commission and demanded to speak directly to the Board of Trustees.In a show of good faith, the President of the UPR invited the President of the Board of Trustees to join thedialogues with the NC, which resulted in a document summarizing a series of understandings about theterms that should be reviewed, analyzed or clarified in the implementation of Certification 98. Thisdocument was signed by the members of the NC on May 7
th
and endorsed by the Board of Trustees onMay 8
th
. In a meeting the following day, the NC reneged on the understandings without presenting them tothe RP student assembly, as originally agreed. Furthermore, they called for a new assembly on May 13,2010 that resulted in the continuation of the illegal strike.

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