GC supporters protest again against U plan

Derrick Biney

In direct opposition to the president’s recommendations to close General College, supporters of the college hosted a rally outside the McNamara Alumni Center on Friday.

About 120 people attended the rally, which was put together by the General College Truth Movement to show the unity of diverse communities around Minnesota whose children could be affected by the proposed changes.

The group is made up of students, faculty and concerned community members.

“We started off with 15 people and now we have grown to about 200. That was literally done by word of mouth,” said Nathan Whittaker, an alumnus and General College teaching assistant.

The group organized the sit-in at Morrill Hall, were nine students were arrested and jailed on May 4.

The event ended a week-long protest on Northrop Mall by college supporters who camped out in about 15 tents near Morrill Hall to show their opposition to the plan.

August Nitmz, a professor in the department of political science and Lisa Zaragoza, a professor of Chicano studies, hosted the rally and led the crowd in call and response chants.

“GC’s under attack. What do we do? Stand up, fight back,” the crowd shouted.

Over 15 speakers, including former students, spoke at the rally in support of keeping the college open. The event ended with a performance by a Native American dance group.

Madeline Gardner, a second-year General College student, was the first to speak in defense of the college.

“Part of the reason that we are upset is because the (strategic positioning) document was not released until early April,” she said after her speech. “There was no real participation from General College students, staff or faculty in the decision-making process.”

Phyllis Walker, AFSCME Local 3800 president, also spoke in defense of the college.

“It’s time to say ‘no’ to closing General College,” she said. “It’s time to say no to turning the University into a laboratory for corporate America.”

Kwabena Siaka, a graduate research project assistant in the college, said he hopes rally attendees walked away with a better understanding of the situation.

“It’s a reality check; this is about saving access to the University,” he said. “Human beings matter, not corporations or research.”

Siaka said the fate of General College affects a lot of people. Students who come from underprivileged backgrounds have dreams of attending the University and closing the college would not give those students a chance to come to the University, he said.

“We need to keep those dreams and hopes alive,” Siaka said, “It’s about protecting their future.”

Rally attendee Elizabeth Schendel, a third-year College of Liberal Arts student, said it was “really empowering” to see people in General College representing it and not the administration.

“It’s not just one group of people fighting; it’s people of all backgrounds fighting to achieve equal opportunity for education”, Schendel said.