The latest events at the University of Puerto Rico have made evident, even to the most conservative, that the administration’s heavy-handed policy towards the students is abusive, ineffective and plainly wrong.
The indiscriminate aggression of police riot squads against students, who are exercising their constitutional rights in public areas without interfering with any academic or administrative activity, is a gross violation of their rights and an act comparable only to the acts of the dictatorships we all denounce and reject.
By persisting in the use of brute force to impose order at the UPR, Gov. Fortuño’s administration has dealt a blow not only to the concept of free speech, but to the principles governing university education. By no means can the development of critical thinking, effective communication and social responsibility be achieved with a police contingent watching over every hallway, every library, every plaza and even every student group with the pretext of “keeping the institutional order.”
How has the university’s institutional order been breached? Were the students rioting? Were they pulling other students from their classrooms? No. They were painting messages on the asphalt on one of the campus streets. Painting messages, along with distributing leaflets or publishing a newspaper, are constitutionally protected activities.
Exercising our freedom of speech, our freedom of association, is not a crime.
UPR Río Piedras campus Chancellor Ana R. Guadalupe, and all the other UPR system’s chancellors for that matter, must order the police out of the university. Like the students chant in their slogans, the university should not be, cannot become “a military camp.”
When UPR President Jose Ramón de la Torre requested in writting to the Police Superintendent to withdraw police from campus, he was asked to resign.
President Obama, we urge you to act in order to stop the abuse towards our students and our population who have been denied these fundamental rights.
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