Dorothy is a promising graduate student at LaUPI (University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras.) Her powerful writing has been published across several media outlets, exploring the intersections of race and class on the island. The colonial trauma she often writes about surfaced during the hurricanes, when her studies were disrupted and she found herself without campus housing and little support from the administration. Classes were suspended for months and some parts of campus were completely inaccessible.
Many stateside colleges offered La UPI students an opportunity to continue studying at their campuses in the short term. Although these initiatives might have been helpful to a portion of UPR’s student body that could afford the related expenses of transplanting to a new campus, it left many, like Dorothy, without those choices. This is contributing to a brain drain where the existing campus suffers as the student body dwindles. Funding from tuition is needed to address power outages, closed research centers, damaged classrooms and mold problems.
The disruption the hurricanes caused came on the heels of earlier student and faculty protests, as extreme budget cuts significantly disrupted the university’s operations during the spring semester. The fiscal control board implemented more cuts to the uni with a 50% tuition hike, creating deep hardships for most of the student body. Dorothy told me many students and professors will be effected by the downturn over the next few months, as they slash wages / retirement benefits for instructional staff and close campus access to rural areas where students must overcome tremendous adversity to attend. For students like Dorothy, the future is unclear.
What is the future of the university system when it is inaccessible to the most vulnerable populations? How will this shape the research?