I was admitted to the General College in 1996 after being denied access to other institutions and today, my life has come full-circle to this outstanding college.
Why General College? The hardships I faced in high school put me at a disadvantage to enter other research institutions, and these misfortunes were not of my own omission. Throughout most of high school, I was in the midst of a child-custody battle, was hospitalized nearly 30 times with asthma and diabetes complications and spent part of my childhood as a low-income student, among other harmful tribulations. I do not see myself as a victim today. I am unquestionably a survivor and so are today’s General College students. General College was the first place where people came to me and said something as simple as, “We believe in you!” And, let it be noted that I also took a crack at the community-college system before my acceptance to General College, where I was but a mere nonentity.
Though countless individuals told me that I would never attend any college, while I was pulverized by societal messages about “my place” in today’s workforce, I will graduate from the University with a master’s degree in youth development next month. Without General College, I passionately believe that I would not be successful today!
This University administration is sending the same intolerable messages to hundreds of children such as me; they are vocally assaulting General College students and they have attacked my family, my community and I, for we all live through the humanity of other humans. We have now been told that we do not belong. This University administration’s goal is to become one of the top universities in the nation. By means of a new caste system for 2005, they will disconnect the lower socio-economic crust from access, leaving those with lifetime privileges an open door to the institution.
General College students come from high schools that do not have computer labs; their textbooks are outdated; their teachers are underpaid and overworked; they live in the neighborhoods of our cities that are ignored, abused and strained; they are the children who hold the same dreams as more privileged children who come from schools with many resources, numerous computer labs, great sports and arts programs, extracurricular activities, new books and more!
Yet I say to you, Minnesotans, General College is not dead! What is dead is the minds and heart of this administration, who benefit significantly from, if nothing else, their rank in high society.
I, along with countless others, will no longer ask this administration to bestow General College its right to exist. We demand University President Bob Bruininks to sit down at the discussion table with General College’s Dean David Taylor, the faculty and staff, and the college’s students. Minnesota and its residents do not act in a nondemocratic fashion and this administration has lied to Minnesotans by stating that General College was invited to the discussion table from the start.
Bruininks, I challenge you to visit those neighborhoods General College students come from, look its residents in the eyes and say, “Sorry, we have closed our institution to you and your children.”
Though this administration feels that their newest duty is to assist K-12 education and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system to provide “access” to these students, these same administrators have failed to recognize that it is also their duty to see that equal opportunity to education is met in the state of Minnesota!
Bruininks and the Board of Regents: Please understand that racism and classism will not go away until those with racial and class privilege look at themselves first. And yes, this means you!
Ignorance, which is an ill treatment to our nation’s youth, is the antithesis of what we all undeniably need and long for freedom through education. Ignorance of the significance and worth of education for the less privileged is a pathology. I am all for making the University one of the more prominent institutions in the nation, but we can do this by strengthening the General College, rather than dissolving it. Imagine the influence and potential the University would have once it is viewed as the most inclusive and multiculturally innovative institution in the nation.
We call on you Minnesota!
Nathan Whittaker is a University staff member. Please send comments to [email protected]