On the night of April 20, 2010, a group of students from the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), Río Piedras campus, met to organize an indefinite strike that quickly broadened into a defense of accessible public higher education of excellence as a fundamental right and not a privilege. Although the history of student activism in the UPR can be traced back to the early 1900s, the 2010-2011 strike will be remembered for the student activists’ use of new media technologies as resources that rapidly prompted and aided the numerous protests.
This activist research entailed a critical ethnography and a critical discourse analysis (CDA) of traditional and alternative media coverage and treatment during the 2010 -2011 UPR student strike. I examined the use of the 2010-2011 UPR student activists’ resistance performances in constructing local, corporeal, and virtual spaces of resistance and contention during their movement. In particular, I analyzed the different tactics and strategies of resistance or repertoire of collective actions that student activists used (e.g. new media technologies) to frame their collective identities via alternative news media’s (re)presentation of the strike, while juxtaposing the university administration’s counter-resistance performances in counter-framing the student activists’ collective identity via traditional news media representations of the strike. I illustrated how both traditional and alternative media (re)presentations of student activism developed, maintained, and/or modified students activists’ collective identities.
As such, the UPR student activism’s success should not be measured by the sum of demands granted, but by the sense of community achieved and the establishment of networks that continue to create resistance and change. These networks add to the debate surrounding Internet activism and its impact on student activism. Ultimately, the results of this study highlight the important role student movements have had in challenging different types of government policies and raising awareness of the importance of an accessible public higher education of excellence.