MSA opposes U’s proposal to close General College

The Forum also passed seven other position statements during the meeting.

Bryce Haugen

At one of the busiest Forum meetings of the year Tuesday, the Minnesota Student Association narrowly voted to oppose the University’s proposal to close General College.

When Forum speaker Kevin Wendt announced the final vote tally, 17-16-1, statement supporters erupted in applause.

The Forum also passed seven other position statements during the almost three-hour meeting, including several dealing with the on-campus stadium and one calling for more student involvement in administrative decisions.

The position statements have no official power but express the opinion of Forum members.

Referring to the jam-packed agenda for the final regular Forum meeting of the year, outgoing MSA president Tom Zearley said the group was “going out with a bang.”

But lengthy debate about several position statement amendments annoyed some Forum members, they said.

“This is the most asinine Forum in recent memory,” said retiring Forum member Aaron B. Solem, one of several members whose early departure from the meeting might have affected the General College vote.

In March, University officials announced a plan to close General College and integrate its programs into a reorganized College of Education and Human Development. The proposal is part of the plan for the University’s future – a series of recommendations officials said are focused on cutting costs and improving University programming.

Several General College students said Tuesday that closure would severely reduce University access for underserved, diverse populations of students.

“At GC, you’re more than just an ACT score,” said General College freshman Ruth Johnson, who said she never would have been admitted to other University colleges.

Forum member Colin Schwensohn, who co-authored the position statement, said the General College closure is one of the most important issues MSA will deal with in the future.

“It is seriously going to impact our ability to provide accessible higher education to people in this state,” he said.

But Forum member Nathan Wanderman said the proposal is about spreading diversity through integrating General College students into other University colleges.

“The goal is not to exclude students Ö the goal is not to reduce access, the goal is not to reduce diversity,” he said.

Earlier in the meeting, the Forum passed several position statements regarding the proposed on-campus stadium.

One statement calls for students to vote to name the proposed stadium’s south plaza – near the student entrance – through the All-Campus Elections.

Forum member Rubens Feroz said it might be a better financial deal if those rights were sold to a corporate sponsor.

“If it comes down to lower costs to students over naming rights, I think most students would choose lower costs,” he said.

Another statement proposes a seniority system for football season-ticket holders and a “Goldy’s VIP” card. The card would allow free admission to all general admission University sporting events for season-ticket holders. It would also offer deals with local vendors.

The statement also asks that one stadium concession be designated for student group fund raising, which might be possible after the University’s food service contract with Aramark expires in 2008.

A third statement calls for the creation of a stadium board of governors to oversee scheduling of nonfootball-related stadium activities. The proposed board would include five students and four administrators.

Jerry Rinehart, vice provost for student affairs and chairman of the Student Stadium Advisory Committee, said questions remain about the board’s “sphere of influence.” But because students will pay for a significant amount of the stadium through student fees, they will continue to have a strong voice in decisions, he said.

“(Students are) very much a part of the equation,” Rinehart said. “MSA is doing a good job in helping clarify ways in which student contribution can be recognized.”

In other business Tuesday, MSA passed a statement in support of the aspects of the plan for the University’s future that do not deal with General College.

They also passed a resolution asking for the Board of Regents to adopt a “shared governance” policy, in which students would be included in all decisions “concerning students’ life, services and interest.” The policy is modeled after a Wisconsin law.

Wanderman, the statement’s author and also an MSA representative to the Board of Regents, said the statement is intended to avoid a repeat of the process used to develop the plan for the University’s future. Only one student participated in that process and in a very limited capacity, he said.

On a recent trip to Madison, Wis., Wanderman said, he found broad support for the policy.

“Everybody, from the administrators, to the faculty, to the students, was happy this (policy) was in place,” he said.

Rinehart said there are significant differences between Minnesota and Wisconsin laws that need to be worked out.

“Our goal is to meet the spirit of the requirement without the legalese associated with it,” he said.

Early in the meeting, MSA also passed a position statement to recognize that women on campus face violence and sexism. Some Forum members proposed including men and transgender people in the statement, but the Forum approved the original language after lengthy debate about several amendments.