Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Three Articles That Do Justice to the University


For the University of Puerto Rico, it's been a day of vindication.

A response to the full-page column that governor Luis Fortuño published on January 13 in El Nuevo Día, "La UPR que todos queremos" ["The University we all want"], was written in the news magazine Diálogo by a collaborator identified only as a teacher who has worked for decades without tenure. In governor Fortuño's subtle diatribe (for that's really all it is) he warns that he will dramatically restructure the University, altering it beyond recognition.

The author of the riposte to governor Fortuño's column harshly criticizes his vision, management, and plans for the University and compares the governor's words to those of a defendant confessing his crime before a jury. Probably the most interesting thing about his response is how he exquisitely demolishes the fallacies in the governor's arguments by using data published on the webpage of the Oficina de Gerencia y Presupuesto (OGP), the Island's budget management department. While the governor boasts of how his administration has slashed spending since he took over in 2009, he doesn't mention that the budget assigned to the Governor's Office has increased by almost 500% between 2008 and 2010. Yes, you read it right: almost 500%. I highly recommend taking a look at both the article [in spanish] and the numbers on the OGP webpage.

A summary of the past two months of the student protests was also published today in the U.S. newspaper The Huffington Post by UPR professor Maritza Stanchich. Contrary to most of the material regarding the student protests published by the mainstream news sources on the Island, she avoids falling into the trap of superficially reporting events, preferring instead to contextualize the University's crisis within the greater picture of the Island's fiscal woes, one of the few articles to do so. It also has the added advantage of being written in English, thereby making it available to a greater worldwide audience and at the same time helping to offset the flood of disinformation about Puerto Rico that the Fortuño administration has spread in the U.S. media. This is also the reason that this blog is now available in both English and Spanish.

Finally, El Nuevo Día published today an article (that really should have been front page news and not buried in page twenty) revealing that the University president himself, José Ramón De la Torre, and the Board of Trustees admitted in a report given to the Comisón Cameral de Hacienda that the current crisis was caused by the nefarious Law 7 [Ley 7 de Emergencia Fiscal] and not by the last administration. Indeed, the report, which was signed by the now president of the Board of Trustees, Ygrí Rivera when she was second vice-president, goes even further and says that the last administration actually took effective measures to curb spending in anticipation of the current crisis. In light of this evidence, all the arguments that the University administration and the governor have given to convince people that imposing the $800 special fee on students was inevitable come crashing down.

How Puerto Rico's real fiscal situation has been kept from the public has never before been made so glaringly obvious until today. There should be no doubt left in anyone's mind that this administration has in its hands a serious credibility problem, one that I very much doubt it will be able to get rid of.

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