Hundreds rally at U for GC

Anna Weggel

ACorrection: The Daily incorrectly identified a speaker at the General College rally. Barbara Hodne was identified in the article as Heather Dorsey. Both are General College teaching specialists. In the photo, Barbara Hodne was also the woman who conducted the interview with Guy Vandenberg, a General College senior accountant, who pretended to be University President Bob Bruininks in a skit.

The Daily misquoted Minneapolis City Council member Natalie Johnson Lee, Ward 5. Johnson Lee said: “You are our future; you are our business; and if we aren’t looking out for you, we need to go the hell home.”

After a task force’s proposal to close down their college, General College supporters took a stand Wednesday.

In fact, they took approximately 500 stands.

Students, staff members, faculty members and supporters of General College carried signs, sang songs and spoke in front of a hoard of advocates wearing yellow shirts.

Khong Xiong, General College Student Board president, was one of the many speakers at the rally.

Khong said he didn’t come to the University to enroll in a world-class research institution but, rather, to feel comfortable in a place where he could become an educated, experienced and intellectual individual.

At the end of his speech, he addressed University President Bob Bruininks, who did not attend the rally. Khong said he is a minority and comes from an underprivileged family. English is his second language, and he is a first-generation college student.

Yet, he said, he is on the dean’s list and involved in student leadership.

“I am only a freshman,” Khong said. “Am I not talented enough for you?”

Robert Jones, University senior vice president for system administration, issued a statement in response to the rally.

“It’s good to see that so many people care about the future of this university,” Jones said. “We are encouraged by their taking the time to speak their minds.”

Jones said everyone can agree the goal is to have a university that is better able to meet the needs of students, faculty members and Minnesotans.

“We may just disagree on how to get there,” he said.

Passionate protestors

At the start of the rally, Heather Dorsey, a teaching specialist, interviewed Guy Vandenberg, a General College senior accountant, who pretended to be Bruininks in a skit.

“You’re a good man,” Dorsey said to Vandenberg. “And we’re bringing you back (to the good side).”

Dorsey said Bruininks used to be a Democratic Minnesota Sen. Paul “Wellstone liberal.”

The protestors sang songs to Vandenberg, the pretend Bruininks, to the tune of “Kumbaya,” with lyrics such as “Someone’s crying, Bob, keep GC” or “You’ve been straying, Bob, come on back.”

Students held signs with phrases such as “Bruininks is a racist” and “Don’t do it.” Some signs had slashes through the words “strategic positioning” on them.

Supporters even held large dream catchers high in the air along with signs that said, “You’re killing the dream. Why?”

Adults, children in strollers and even dogs donned yellow shirts that stated, “General College, achieving Access and Excellence since 1932.”

Speaking for the cause

General College Dean David Taylor said the college needs to send a message to the University administration that the process used to create the proposals was wrong.

“This is a corporate model, not one that is conducive to the University,” he said.

Taylor said the University’s decision not to contact anyone from General College about possibly closing it was “disrespectful and exclusionary.”

He said the only thing the administration asked him to do was get on board with the changes.

“If I didn’t take off on the airplane, how am I going to land with it?” he said.

He requested more time to engage the administration around the issue, inviting decision-makers to “come back to the table.”

Taylor led the supporters in a chant of a South African proverb, “Nothing about us without us.”‘

Minneapolis City Council member Natalie Johnson Lee, Ward 5, spoke to protestors about a resolution the council passed in support of General College.

“You are our future; you are our business; and if we aren’t looking out for you, we need to go to hell,” she said.

“You are supposed to be here, and you belong here,” Johnson Lee shouted as protestors erupted into cheers and applause.

She said the survival of General College correlates with the survival of the University and that they need to stand up to tell the University it won’t go on without them.

Phyllis Walker, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3800 president, said the union will support General College just as students supported the clerical workers in 2003.

She said General College is student-centered, inclusive and represents the best in the University’s land-grant mission.

“Bob Bruininks and cronies want to take the University and make it a private and expensive club for the rich,” she said.

Celi Dean, Miss Black Minnesota and a University student, said cutting General College sends a negative message to youth.

She said students should not be admitted to the University based on money, class rank or grade point average but, rather, their will to succeed, which is displayed by General College students.

“We are here, and we are not going anywhere, no matter what they decide to do,” Dean said.