Life Lessons

UPR Strikes Colegial Point of View

Back in 2010, I was a freshman at the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez Campus. Strikes and manifestations were a massive part of my time studying there. For the good and for the bad, whether you like it or not, they are a part of every student journey at Puerto Rico’s public University. Because of the strike of 2010 I experienced the longest summer break I ever had. I was free to do whatever I wanted with my time from May to September. Trust me, a lot of good memories were made during that summer.

In Puerto Rico, the fall semester starts in August. But since the strike began in May, the current students still have not finished their semester. Which meant that consequently neither a graduation ceremony took place over the strike period.

When was about time to start my first year of university, all of UPRM students were finishing their semester. It was a pity; I have friends who parents could not see beyond the strike situation and basically force them to start their studies in other universities. Because you know, the clock is ticking and you MUST finish your bachelor’s degree in 4 years.

Luckily, I was able to start my first semester of my bachelor’s degree mid-September at my desired University Campus. Little that I knew that the strike situation was never going to be over. I do understand that what the students were fighting for was very important for the future not only of accessible education in Puerto Rico but also for the well being of the current students.

Leaving all politics behind, it’s about time to start talking about what is like to a Colegial dealing with strikes coming from fellow students and employers as well.

Strike = MX + B

For a manifestation or strike to happen, they are a lot of things that have to come together first. First, a group of people must be against something the current administration is up to. Second, they need to hold an assembly. This involves a lot of gossip and rumors about what to expect. Sometimes it even brings up a lot of debates and discussion in classrooms or at the campus in general. Trust me; you can really feel the tension in the air. Third, students must suffer for about 4 hours and vote throughout the whole assembly. Or at least until they have finally decided on whether they will be a strike or not.

Strike = Class are Canceled

First, keep in mind that no one actually knows if they will be “closing” the gates and not allowing people into the Campus until very early in the morning. They might be a lot of rumors going on, but you only know for sure if you have to go to class or not that exact day. They are many ways to get this information.

One, you set up an alarm and walk around Campus to see what’s going. Two, rely on a friend to do number one and keep you up to date. We all have that friend who has a class at 7 am. So it’s his or her duty to keep the group informed. Three, my favorite, stay up until early in the morning and take a walk to the gates and catch up with what is planned for the day. Mingle with the protesters, get to know them and their motives.

In the student assemblies, I never voted in favor of starting a strike, so I neither needed to be in the manifestations supporting them. Don’t judge me. I had so many other things to be taking care of and worrying about. Also, some strikes do more harm than good, like for example the one that happened the summer of 2010. For all of those reasons, I supported all of the alternatives of manifestations except the ones that canceled class.

If there was indeed a manifestation that did not allow anyone to enter the campus. We celebrated by sleeping in, after a long night partying, and enjoying the afternoon at the beach or whatever. Strike nightlife and the beach parties were the best. We, the students, were like in our own student’s bubble.  Imagine being at the beach a Tuesday afternoon full of college students. It was lit! We kind of made it our little spring break.

Class Canceled = Recovering Periods

After the strikes are over, that “wasted” time has to be recovered. Which means that we had classes during the weekend and on public holidays. Moreover, forget about having a Christmas or summer break. For some, this can be very stressful since they work during the weekend, have vacations planned or even are dealing with summer internships and job offers. Not all professors are willing to work on weekend and holidays as well. Which ends up being a very different situation for every student. Insert insane schedules and creative final assignments here.

Ultimately strikes are an ongoing thing that every generation of UPRM students experiences in their unique way. With this in mind, you get to decide if they become a positive or negative part of your student life. Based on my experience, strike season can be tiring and stressful at times, yet they can turn into an amazing and unforgettable part of your college student experience. So, YOLO up!

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