Boycott the General College task force

Change in the interest of working people never comes from benevolent elites.

The strategic positioning task force on General College will do one thing: accomplish the administration’s goal of closing the University’s most diverse college.

Toward the end of the civil rights movement, some activists started to use the slogan “out of the streets into the suites.” The struggle went from being a powerful mass-based protest to a struggle fought in conference rooms and White House committees. This change represented a fundamental shift: It led to the decline of its power, militancy and effectiveness in advocating for large- scale change in the interests of working class African Americans.

Change in the interest of poor and working people never comes from benevolent or enlightened elites in state or federal government. It’s only when people take to the streets that those in power feel the heat. In our fight for equality and access at the University, we cannot afford to move “from the streets to the suites.” The undemocratic decision to close General College was made by a regents vote during summer break. The University administration did not consult with Minnesotans or General College students or staff and faculty members.

The General College Truth Movement and the Equal Access Coalition have refused to participate in the strategic positioning task force responsible for General College. We have refused to meet with these committees. We don’t participate in their public forums. We believe that Minnesotans must be able make real decisions on access and equality. The task force process does not provide this opportunity.

The University continues to cut General College numbers. Since the regents’ vote, the administration has made more undemocratic decisions and decided to reduce a future general studies department from a two-year to a one-year program and from 875 to 475 students. It is likely that these numbers will be cut further. The program could be eliminated entirely. The task force has no power. The task force members are solicited to do one thing: accomplish the administration’s final objective of the dismantling the General College. The task force cannot debate the closure of General College and has no say in the number of students admitted to the proposed new department, or its admissions criteria. The only power of the task force is to make recommendations on issues other than the closure of General College and the number of students admitted. When the task force releases its proposals, these will be debated during a 30-day period for public comment. This month is scheduled to coincide with finals week and winter break. The task force will be disbanded after it makes its proposals. No democratic bodies have been created to implement these proposals.

Where are the students? Where is the community? No one really knows how or why people are appointed to the task force. The task force does not represent the interests of current and future General College students, staff or faculty members. There is only one student representative. The task force has had closed door meetings all semester.

The Equal Access Coalition and the GC Truth Movement believe that, whatever its name, we must keep a two-year General College program that admits at least 875 students yearly. Any new department that takes the place of General College should retain the same levels of resources and staff members and set admissions criteria and admit students. To participate in a truly democratic forum on General College, access and equality, come to the Community Forum on Equal Access in Education on Dec. 15 at Coffman Union Theater. See our Web site at www.webegc.org.

Jonneke Koomen is a member of the General College Truth Movement. Please send comments to [email protected]