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MSA takes up GC change

If passed, a Forum position statement will denounce General College’s realignment.

At today’s meeting, the Minnesota Student Association will debate a position statement that would oppose the University’s plan for the General College’s upcoming move to department status inside the College of Education and Human Development.

As part of that transition, the General College’s successor, tentatively named the general studies department, will eventually admit 475 students to a one-year program. The college currently admits 875 students to a two-year program.

After a question-and-answer session with Vice Provost Craig Swan, Forum members will consider a position statement that would call for MSA to oppose any reduction in enrollment or program length to the general studies department.

After the Board of Regents approved University President Bob Bruininks’ realignment plans last spring, MSA voted to oppose closure of the General College.

MSA Vice President Colin Schwensohn cowrote that statement and is the sole author of the position statement that will be debated in the MSA Forum today.

He said people who were initially concerned about the transition from the General College into a department are now troubled that the department will accept 400 fewer students and that the program will be reduced in length.

“A lot of us feel it’s essentially dissolving the General College,” he said. “Over time, it’s very easy to dissolve a department, whereas it’s difficult to get rid of a college.”

Depending on how well the general studies department does, he said, University administration might close it.

Schwensohn said there is talk of making his position statement into a resolution, which would call for MSA to act rather than just render an opinion.

If MSA issues a resolution opposing the changes to the General College, the task of organizing Forum members to action will likely fall on Legislative Affairs Committee Chairwoman Christina Baldwin.

If a resolution passes, MSA’s main goal would be to get students to rally around the issue, Baldwin said.

Even if MSA’s efforts are not effective, she said, “it’s worth a shot, because it’s important for students to voice their opinions.”

Schwensohn said it is MSA’s job to debate issues like the closure of the General College, whether it will affect the University’s plan or not.

“In terms of what power we have in policy decision at the University, it’s basically whether the University thinks it’s a good idea or not,” Schwensohn said.

However, if the student government doesn’t approve of what the University is doing, it’s “incredibly important” the administration knows MSA disagrees, he said.

General College Interim Dean Terence Collins did not comment Monday about MSA’s pending position statement.

Collins said MSA should make decisions without the influence people like him might bring to discussion.

“They know what the strategic plan is. They have information in front of them that will inform their conversation,” he said. “I think it’s an entirely appropriate thing for them to do, to have an argument about this and to make their position known.”

The academic task force dealing with the design of the new College of Education and Human Development is due to issue a final report Dec. 10.

The next public meeting for the task force is scheduled for 3:15 p.m. Nov. 28 in 102 Fraser Hall.

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