Open Letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder from Puerto Rican Academics

December 16, 2010

Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr. Attorney General of the United States
The United States Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20530-0001

Dear Mr. Holder:

As Puerto Rican scholars teaching in the United States we have decided to write to you in order to express our deep concern with regard to recent developments at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR). For the past months, the University has experienced a continuing conflict that began last semester with a call for a strike by the students in response to an increase in academic tuition and related to fears about the future of public higher education on the island. Unfortunately, university administrators, professors, and students have not been able to negotiate a satisfactory agreement. The whole process has recently culminated in the intervention of Governor Luis Fortuño and the deployment of a massive police presence on the main university campus at Río Piedras and on other campuses in the system, including a private security contractor and fully armed SWAT units.

On December 13, Chancellor Ana R. Guadalupe banned all meetings, festivals, manifestations, and all other so-called large activities on the Río Piedras campus for a period of thirty days. In our view, this represents a clear breach of fundamental constitutional rights. The justifications given by the Chancellor are that this measure is required in order to keep the campus open and to return it to normal operations. Furthermore, professors and workers are being asked (under the threat of punishment) to continue working despite the intense volatility caused by the police presence on campus.

We remain very concerned that such use of force may in fact increase the potential for violence and continued tension, especially if the guarantees of freedom of speech, association, and assembly have been revoked. Both the United States Constitution and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico guarantee these rights. Moreover, this week the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico (which, without the opportunity for serious public debate, was recently restructured by the government of Luis Fortuño in order to ensure a clear majority of judges in his favor) declared, in a disturbing resolution, that strikes will be prohibited at all UPR campuses effective immediately.

We the undersigned write to you as scholars and citizens because of the potentially lethal conditions that we have described and that prevail at the UPR. That is why we urge you to intervene in order to:
1. Guarantee the constitutional rights of freedom of speech, association, and assembly as stipulated by both constitutions and to see that the conflict is conducted under the strictest observation of human and civil rights for all parties involved.
2. Procure the immediate withdrawal of all state and city police, private contractors, and other non-UPR security personnel from the University of Puerto Rico system currently under occupation.
3. Call all parties to meet and have a truly productive dialogue.

Respectfully yours,
[Institutional affiliations for identification purposes only. Please respond to primary contacts.]

1) Agnes Lugo-Ortiz, The University of Chicago [Primary contact]
2) Ivette N. Hernández-Torres, University of California, Irvine [Primary contact]
3) Luis F. Avilés, University of California, Irvine [Primary contact]
4) Aldo Lauria-Santiago, Rutgers University [Primary contact]
5) Arcadio Díaz-Quiñones Emory L. Ford Professor, Emeritus, Princeton University
6) Aníbal González-Pérez, Yale University
7) Luis Figueroa-Martínez, Trinity College Treasurer, Puerto Rican Studies Association (PRSA)
8) Roberto Alejandro, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
9) Harry Vélez-Quiñones, University of Puget Sound
10) Ismael García-Colón, College of Staten Island, CUNY
11) Áurea María Sotomayor-Miletti, University of Pittsburgh
12) Antonio Lauria-Perricelli, New York University
13) Wanda Rivera Rivera, University of Massachusetts, Boston
14) José Quiroga, Emory University
15) Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
16) Daniel Torres, Ohio University
17) Pablo Delano, Trinity College
18) Denise Galarza Sepúlveda, Lafayette College
19) Richard Rosa, Duke University
20) Eleuterio Santiago-Díaz, University of New Mexico
21) Ilia Rodríguez, University of New Mexico
22) Ramón H. Rivera-Servera, Northwestern University
23) Gladys M. Jiménez-Muñoz, Binghamton University-SUNY
24) Luz-María Umpierre Poet, Scholar, Human Rights Advocate
25) Sheila Candelario, Fairfield University
26) Edna Acosta-Belén, University at Albany, SUNY
27) Efraín Barradas, University of Florida at Gainsville barradas@LATAM.UFL.EDU
28) Kelvin Santiago-Valles, Binghamton University-SUNY
29) Víctor Figueroa, Wayne State University
30) Juan Duchesne Winter, University of Pittsburgh
31) Pablo A. Llerandi-Román, Grand Valley State University
32) Irmary Reyes-Santos, University of Oregon
33) Arnaldo Cruz-Malavé, Fordham University
34) Ileana M. Rodríguez-Silva, University of Washington
35) César A. Salgado, University of Texas, Austin
36) Jossianna Arroyo, University of Texas, Austin
37) Francisco A. Scarano, University of Wisconsin, Madison
38) Jaime Rodríguez Matos, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
39) Cecilia Enjuto Rangel, University of Oregon
40) Elpidio Laguna-Díaz, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey
41) Lena Burgos-Lafuente, SUNY, Stony Brook
42) Ramón Grosfoguel, University of California, Berkeley
43) José Francisco Buscaglia Salgado, SUNY, Buffalo Director of Program in Caribbean Studies
44) Francisco Cabanillas, Bowling Green State University
45) Lisa Sánchez González, University of Connecticut
46) María M. Carrión, Emory University
47) Yolanda Martínez-San Miguel, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey Director Institute for Research on Women
48) Agustín Lao-Montes, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
49) Jason Cortés, Rutgers University-Newark
50) Nelson Maldonado-Torres, Rutgers University President, Caribbean Philosophical Association
51) Daín Borges, The University of Chicago
52) Edna Rodríguez-Mangual, Hamilton College
53) Ricardo Pérez Figueroa, Eastern Connecticut State University
54) Licia Fiol-Matta, Lehman College, CUNY
55) Frances R. Aparicio, University of Illinois at Chicago
56) Luis E. Zayas, Arizona State University
57) Hortensia R. Morell, Temple University
58) Milagros Denis-Rosario, Hunter College
59) Víctor Rodríguez, California State University, Long Beach
60) Madeline Troche-Rodríguez, City Colleges of Chicago
61) Carmen R. Lugo-Lugo, Washington State University
62) Jorge Luis Castillo, University of California, Santa Barbara
63) Rosa Elena Carrasquillo, College of the Holy Cross
64) Juan Carlos Rodríguez, The Georgia Institute of Technology
65) Susana Peña, Bowling Green State University
66) José R. Cartagena-Calderón, Pomona College
67) Amílcar Challu, Bowling Green State University
68) Carlos J. Alonso, Columbia University
69) Carmen A. Rolón, Providence College
70) Amy Robinson, Bowling Green State University
71) Consuelo Arias, Nassau Community College

Puerto Rican Scholars in Canada Who Also Subscribe to this Letter
72) Rubén A. Gaztambide-Fernández, University of Toronto
73) Néstor E. Rodríguez, University of Toronto
74) Gustavo J. Bobonis, University of Toronto
cc: Thomas E. Pérez, Assistant Attorney General, United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division
Luis Gutiérrez, Congressman, Illinois 4th District
Nydia Velázquez, Congresswoman, New York 12th District
José Serrano, Congressman, New York 16th District American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
Luis Fortuño, Governor of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner in Washington
José Ramón de la Torre, President of the University of Puerto Rico
Ygrí Rivera de Martínez, President of the Board of Trustees (Junta de Síndicos), University of Puerto Rico
Ana R. Guadalupe, Chancellor of the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus

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