Economy

The Media Just Ignored These Giant Student Protests

May 17th 2015

By:
Sarah Gray

On Wednesday, a major protest took place over large cuts to higher education.

Yet, hardly any major news outlets covered the story.

On May 13, thousands of students, teachers, and others in the University of Puerto Rico community took to the streets of San Juan to protests a proposed $166 million in cuts to the school system. The figure accounts for a whopping one-fifth of the budget for the public higher education system. 

The protests were tense with the presence of police and a SWAT team:

 

 

The blog Latino Rebels and the news agency El Nuevo Dia mentioned reports of a makeshift explosive being detonated outside of the Governor's mansion. From Latino Rebels:

"There were even reports that a Pepsi bottle filled with aluminum and a chemical had detonated very near the La Fortaleza (the governor’s mansion). There were no injuries, but we do think that if a bomb-like device had gone off near where an elected official on the mainland was, it would be on a constant 24/7 constant loop coverage. Images from the live stream of El Nuevo Día also were shared throughout social media all day in Puerto Rico:"

Some context

The cuts were proposed Gov. Alejandro García Padilla due to a fiscal crisis in Puerto Rico, and are are part of a proposed $1.5 billion reduction in government spending. Some of the proposed cuts were avoided by agreement between Gov. Padilla and legislators to raise the sales tax from 7 percent to 11.5 percent. However, according to the Associate Press, it is unknown what program the sales tax revenue will go towards. The new proposal, which will come up for a vote on Monday, would raise $1.2 billion in revenue, but still include $500 million in cuts.

Students, faculty, and university workers met with the governor's aids on Wednesday, however, according to El Nuevo Dia, the governor was not present, angering the group. Members of the university system are also scheduled to meet with leaders from the legislature.

Though protests had died down by Friday, strikes were rumored to take place at two campuses, according to the Huffington Post.

Puerto Rico is a United States territory, and in 1947 became a commonwealth of the United States -- able to elect its own governor. (John Oliver deftly explains U.S. territories in the video below.)

Puerto Rico has been experiencing a recession, and in 2009, faced austerity measures. In March of 2015, it had an 11.8 percent unemployment rate -- around double the U.S. unemployment rate.

This sounds familiar

Students in the U.S. and around the globe are seeing the cost of higher education rise -- and along with it student debt and inequality. Though in the United States, with the exception of Occupy Wall Street, protests over cuts to education are not nearly as sustained.

This year, Chile successfully protested a lack of affordable public education -- for multiple years -- which resulted in a declaration that higher education in Chile would be free starting in March of 2016.