Chilean students take over troubled university

Close to 200 students took over the Universidad del Mar on Tuesday in response to the school’s many internal struggles and an audit by the Ministry of Education. The takeover comes just a week after University Director Raúl Urrutia resigned, citing pressure from the board of directors to deprioritize teachers' salaries.

Students occupied the central campus in Reñaca, roughly 80 miles west of Santiago, demanding the resignation of the board of directors and a guarantee that the institution would not close. Carlos Martinez, interim president of the Federation of Students of Universidad del Mar (Feudm), blamed the school’s struggles on the administration.

“The problem facing the university has to do with the administrative and financial management and not with the student or teacher quality,” Martinez said.

Universidad del Mar has faced significant financial and educational struggles throughout the past two years. In 2010, the university came under investigation from the Comptroller General of the Republic for attempting to illegally pay off the president of the National Accreditation Commission (CNA). A year later, the school placed 51st out of 53 Chilean universities in an academic ranking by El Mercurio.

Last Wednesday, Urrutia resigned his post, saying that he had been stripped of decision-making abilities and that the financial situation had gotten out of hand.

“In the last eight months there was no possibility for profit because the university debts were too large,” Urrutia told Radio ADN.

In 2011, more than 2,000 protests took place in university and high school campuses across the country, and more than 100 schools across the country were “en toma” (taken over) throughout the year. The movement, popularly dubbed “The Chilean Winter,” was sparked by demands by students for higher educational quality and an end to profiteering in educational institutions.   (santiagotimes.cl)


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