Regents OK plan to cut General College

Matt Graham

By an 11-1 vote, the Board of Regents gave its approval of the controversial plan for the University’s future Friday, allowing officials to implement sweeping academic changes and pursue making the University a top three research institution.

Calling the plan “an essential part of a long-term vision and strategy to improve” the University, University President Bob Bruininks’ recommendations will close, reorganize and create several colleges and departments.

One of the plan’s first steps will dissolve the College of Human Ecology, the College of Natural Resources and General

College and will integrate their programs into other colleges by July 1, 2006.

Provost Tom Sullivan said he and Bruininks will begin appointing leaders for approximately 20 task forces in early July. The task forces will determine how to implement the plan.

The plan also calls for the creation of several new colleges that will emphasize interdisciplinary research.

David Taylor, General College dean, said people at his college are upset about the vote, but are prepared to move on after having a meeting Monday.

“We plan to be in full compliance and work on every opportunity available with all of the task forces,” Taylor said.

The task forces are expected to give their recommendations to the administration by December.

But Sullivan said any changes that are made will be “multiyear and incremental.”

“We will be taking steps along the way,” Sullivan said.

Some plan opponents worry that the elimination of General College and the emphasis on being a top research institution will limit educational access for the working class.

Nathan Whittaker, a General College teaching assistant and General College Truth Movement founder, called measures in the plan to encourage diversity at the University “empty rhetoric” and said his group’s work is not finished despite Friday’s decision.

“Our job now is to make sure that their empty promises are kept,” Whittaker said.

Among the new initiatives proposed to improve on-campus diversity is a consortium to work with economically depressed schools to better prepare students for success in college.

The sole dissenting vote was cast by Regent Steven Hunter, who said he agreed with the need for change but thought too many unanswered questions remained about future task forces.

Regent John Frobenius said he could tolerate some uncertainties at this phase of the plan.

Ultimately, the board’s prevailing opinion was that maintaining the status quo would be potentially harmful for the University. Regents stressed that the future plan presents a unique opportunity for the University to propel itself forward using state funding and already-existing resources.

“If you want to be great, you have to put your resources into your strengths,” said Dave Metzen, Board of Regents chairman.

New leaders for Regents

The Board of Regents also confirmed two leadership nominations.

Anthony Baraga, current board vice chairman, was confirmed as the new chairman of the board. Baraga will replace Metzen, who has served as chairman for the last two years.

Patricia Simmons will take Baraga’s place as vice chair.

Simmons and Baraga are appointed for two years and will take their new posts in July.