The Way Students Strike in Puerto Rico

There’s a student strike at the University of Puerto’s main campus.

Recently, the Federal Fiscal Control Board demanded that the university administration present a plan to execute a 450 million dollar budget cut across the system’s eleven campuses.

Students, you could say, are upset about the proposed cut.

By “students” I don’t mean all students. I mean those willing to risk administrative or criminal sanctions, as well as injury at the hands of others.

By “others” I’m not referring solely to the state police or contracted private security firms.

I’m also referring to this.

In the video, a university professor, dressed in a yellow rugby shirt, can be seen attacking a student striker.

The video is from 2011.

The professor, however, showed up yesterday at the student strike, wearing the same yellow rugby shirt, and approached protesters to hand out flyers against the protest. This gesture was interpreted as a provocation of sorts.

The professor, you could say, has a habit of getting upset at student strikers and confronting them.

Local media, however, portrayed him as an innocent victim.

The professor is a white American man.

In his yellow rugby shirt, he resembles a rugby player.

In a suit, he could easily stand in for any of the white American male members of the Fiscal Control Board.

Local media highlighted how he was spit on by somebody and doused with water.

Also, most of the flyers he passed out were quickly crumpled up and thrown away.

As a result of the chokehold he applied on the student striker in 2011, the professor continued to teach at the university.

As a result of his intervention yesterday, TV and radio personalities have called for sanctions to be leveled against whoever was responsible for the professor being spit upon. Also, all students are being referred to as “thugs” and “criminals” in the media.

By “all students” I mean those willing to risk sanctions, injury and public scorn in an effort to denounce a budget cut that they rightly believe will make the state university system inoperable.

One of the many handmade signs hanging from fences and gates on campus reads “the only way out of the crisis will be through Jet Blue.”

It makes you wonder what’s worse: Getting spit on or getting choked? Shutting the university down for a few days or dismantling the university system? The potential for violence in the body of a rugby player or the political and socio-economic violence implicit in the body of the Federally imposed Fiscal Control Board?

A beloved professor of mine used to say “students are who I look to when I can’t find my way.”

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