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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Coalition for Puerto Rican Debt Relief rallies in Westowne Square

Photo by Andrew Himmelberg
Students gather outside of the Alumni Memorial Union to pass a petition to support the Marquette Puerto Rican Coalition Debt relief.

The Marquette Coalition for Puerto Rican Debt Relief drew attention to the university’s role in the debt crisis in Puerto Rico during a rally Thursday in Westowne Square.

A group of students formed the group to raise awareness about Marquette’s alleged revenue gain from investments in Boston-based hedge fund group The Baupost Group, which owns nearly $1 billion in sales tax bonds of Puerto Rico’s debt. Marquette University allegedly gained more than $100,000 in revenue from investments in Baupost in fiscal year 2016.

The rally gathered approximately 30 people and included speeches from Puerto Rican students, students passionate about the cause, a Marquette University Student Government representative and two professors.

Michael McCarthy, an assistant professor in the College of Arts & Sciences, spoke at the rally.

In addition to the fact there is an incredible amount of poverty and suffering in Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rican government is in a current debt crisis,” McCarthy said.

Hannah Badeau and Sara Zaleta, both seniors in the College of Arts & Sciences, began the coalition. The students found the university’s 990-Tax form through GuideStar, which showed the university’s revenue gains. 

McCarthy closed his speech by asking the crowd, “So the question I want to pose is: Where are we going to stand on this issue?”

During the rally, organizers asked participants to sign a petition to support the coalition. The petition gained more than 50 signatures during the rally, Zaleta said.

Federico Fernandez, a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences, said he thought the rally went well.

“I would have liked more people to come out, but this is also our first public activity,” Fernandez said.

The main hope is that the rally increases the awareness of the issue and will get more students talking and get involved, McCarthy said.

McCarthy said the action could involve a university statement, or the release of information regarding the university’s investment decisions.

As of now, Zaleta said the university reached out to the coalition about meeting with the university’s financial department.

“We are definitely going to hold them accountable to that,” Zaleta said.

Dan Brophy, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences and legislative vice president of MUSG, said student government is helping elevate the voice of this movement, specifically to help students connect with university administration.

“Our executive board for MUSG is going to be signing a letter that essentially says, ‘Here’s what’s going on, here’s all the facts we collected and laid out, and what we would like you to do, (University) President (Michael) Lovell, is to adjust this matter officially with your team and essentially ensure that your staff is going to keep this dialogue open with the student group,'” Brophy said.

Brophy said the letter will be delivered with the petitions to University President Michael Lovell.

Initially, Fernandez said the university seems to be listening to issues the coalition brought up.

“The next immediate step is for the university to come up with an action plan in response to the issues the coalition brought up,” Fernandez said.” The eventual steps are definitely for Marquette to use its position as an investor to pressure Baupost in not enacting the austerity measures it does.” 

At the end of the rally, Zaleta urged the crowd to keep in mind this movement is only beginning and is ongoing.

We are going to use the power of our solidarity to keep on advocating for students here, and also for the people in Puerto Rico,” Zaleta said.

A Baupost spokesperson denied promoting austerity measures in Puerto Rico.

Fernandez added that even if Marquette students are not personally linked to Puerto Rico, the issue still affects everyone on campus.

“It’s still your tuition in the money being used for the endowment,” Fernandez said. “If you don’t want to be a student that benefits from the suffering of fellow students, then you should definitely get involved.”

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