Plan would shuffle two colleges at U

by Anna Weggel

University President Bob Bruininks on Wednesday announced the proposed dissolving of General College and the College of Human Ecology.

An academic task force, which has been working on a new positioning plan for eight months, presented a restructuring of these and other colleges, among other ideas, to Bruininks on Wednesday.

Bruininks said he believes the set of recommendations will help position the University to become one of the top public research universities in the world.

“It’s all about thinking about our future and the future of Minnesota,” he said.

There will be no disruption to the lives of General College students, Bruininks said. The college will merge into a new College of Education and Human Development, and students will be integrated into specific colleges, he said.

This college will include all departments that address education, developmental education and the development of human capital, families and communities.

Bruininks said that once integrated into other colleges, General College students won’t be as separate from the rest of the student body. When the plan is fully implemented, General College will not be an option for students to be admitted to.

General College reacts

David Taylor, the General College dean, said the proposal suggests his college would be nothing more than a small department within another college.

“The college as we’ve known it and its world-class and national programs Ö (would be) tossed out – no consequence,” he said.

Taylor said he does not understand how eliminating his college will assist the University.

“It’s horrible. It doesn’t make sense,” he said. “There is nothing about what’s being proposed that will assist the University in becoming a world-class institution.”

Taylor said there is nothing his college represents that will prevent the University from becoming anything it wants to be.

“One has to question, then – what is the logic then in doing this?” he said.

Taylor said the University never consulted him or anyone in his department about the proposed plan.

“For an institution that prides itself on open discourse and discussion before action, there has been no open discourse or discussion,” he said. “There has been no consultation, and there’s been no attempts to help shape the course of any of these proposals.”

Taylor said the only thing his department has been asked to do is help with implementing the plan.

College of Human Ecology Dean Shirley Baugher was unavailable for comment.

Other changes

Among other changes, Bruininks proposed the creation of a “Regents Honors College” that would help bring in high-quality students.

Although there will be a shift in the types of students who attend the University, he is still committed to admitting students from diverse backgrounds and first-generation students, Bruininks said.

E. Thomas Sullivan, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, said the next step is for Bruininks to make his recommendations to the Board of Regents in May, and the board will make its final decision in June.

Sullivan called the recommendations an outline that will begin conversations around campus.

“We cannot stand still,” he said. “We will only fall behind.”

The task force also recommended the creation of a new “College of Design,” which will integrate the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture with the College of Human Ecology’s design, housing and apparel program.

Sullivan said the goal of merging the programs into one college is to bring together related disciplines that would build a stronger academic unit.

Sullivan also said the plan hopes to strengthen the core of biology at the University by creating a new “Institute of the Environment,” which will become the central focus for environmental research and teaching at the University.

Included in this institute would be the elements of the College of Natural Resources, the College of Biological Sciences and the College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences.

The task force also recommended the creation of a “College of Science and Engineering,” which would combine elements of the College of Biological Sciences and the Institute of Technology.

“The time to step up”

Alfred Sullivan, the executive associate vice president of the University, said he has seen many people do a lot of hard work and that he is optimistic the University can achieve its goal.

“I have seen a lot of infectious enthusiasm,” he said. “This is the moment; this is the time to step up.”

Bruininks said he is hopeful and confident the Board of Regents will accept his recommendations. He said that although some people might say the University is not being sensitive to diversity issues with the proposed closing of General College, he still wants to endorse the plan.

“I think the biggest risk is to do nothing,” he said.