GC closure spreads wide dissent

The real obstacles to student success in academics arethe Universitys elite.

President Bob Bruininks says there has been ìsome negative response” to strategic positioning but accused the Daily of exaggerating this opposition in Wednesdayís paper. The Daily, in turn, wrote about the lack of student input in this process in a Feb. 3 article. We strongly disagree with both characterizations.

Thousands of Minnesotans ó University students, staff members, faculty members, Twin Cities high school students, teachers, churches, city council members, tax payers, immigrant communities and unions ó have expressed their strong views on the administrationís plans to close the General College. And they have rejected it in the strongest possible terms.

A few examples: On April 20, about 500 people rallied in front of Morrill Hall crying ìSave GC.” General College students, staff members and Dean David Taylor insisted the administration seriously consult them on their plans ó to no avail. Over the next months, hundreds of people regularly gathered outside Morrill Hall and the Alumni building to voice their opposition to the closure of the college.

When belatedly invited to a regentsí meeting, the General College community came out in full force to explain the importance of Appleby Hall. The CLA Faculty of Color, educators with profound understanding of the importance of access to higher education, united to publicly reject the administrationís plan to close the General College.

Then, in May, about 30 students sat in Bruininksí office demanding that he simply listen to those affected by the closure of the General College. He retaliated by arresting and pressing charges against nine students.

Police Maced protesting students and pressed charges against the president of the clerical workersí union for condemning police brutality on live television. After being locked out of Morrill Hall, the General College supporters set up a weeklong encampment outside the building.

In September, 88 students, staff and faculty members founded the Equal Access Coalition to protest the closure of the General College. They then joined forces with high school students, community groups and educators to make their opposition heard.

In November, about 2,000 high school and university students gathered in front of Coffman Union to oppose military recruiting in high schools. Recognizing the links between cuts in education and the policies that send the most disadvantaged members of society to die in Iraq, they then marched to Appleby Hall crying ìSave General College.”

In December, more than 300 students representing urban high schools gathered in Coffman Union for a democratic forum on equal access. They overwhelmingly rejected the Universityís plan to close the General College and its plans to limit student numbers in the proposed general studies department.

Two hundred urban high school students ó many of them low-income, African American, or first-generation immigrants ó rallied at Morrill Hall on application day. In freezing weather they demanded ìAccess to the U!” and admission to the General College.

Only three weeks ago, 56 Minneapolis high school students originally from Ethiopia, Somalia and Mexico wrote President Bruininks to tell him that, ìWe, too, need access to education.”

In short, the widespread boycott of University task forces doesnít reflect apathy. It reflects far-reaching dissent to the administrationís vision and its plainly undemocratic committees with no decision-making power.

The General College is neither the cause of the Universityís high dropout rates, nor the reason students have a hard time graduating in four years. It provides exemplary educational support, small classrooms and excellent teaching which prepares students to transfer to degree-granting colleges. This award-winning program is a model for access and excellence.

If we want to increase access and graduation rates, we need the General College to prepare students for transfer to other colleges.

The real obstacles to student success are the Universityís elite, white colleges where students must sink or swim in anonymous large lecture halls and few advisers to guide them along the way.

Bruininks called for engagement. Heís got it. Minnesotans overwhelmingly reject the privatization of the University and the closure of the General College.

Members of The General College Truth Movement and the Equal Access Coalition wrote this column. Please send comments to [email protected].