Bruininks addresses MSA about possible General College closure

University President Bob Bruininks said the move would not decrease underprivileged students’ access to the University.

Bryce Haugen

Facing tough questions from student government leaders about the proposed General College closure, University President Bob Bruininks reaffirmed his commitment to University diversity at a Minnesota Student Association meeting Tuesday.

At the special meeting, Bruininks told MSA the proposal to move General College to the College of Education and Human Development will not decrease underprivileged students’ access to the University. Bruininks fielded questions about the proposed merger and several other ideas announced last month in a series of strategic-positioning reports.

“The entire process is focused on cutting costs, on better outcomes for students, on improving the University each and every day,” he said.

Bruininks last spoke to MSA in March, days before the reports were released. He agreed to return to the group after student government leaders complained about being excluded from the strategic-positioning process, said Amy Jo Pierce, MSA vice president.

“It’s all about us pushing for student involvement,” she said.

Most of the handful of questions Forum members asked Bruininks focused on the General College proposal.

“What is your definition of ‘access’?” said MSA Forum member Zeb Anderson, a political science student.

Bruininks said access is about success for all types of students.

“Access without success doesn’t mean very much to me,” he said.

“It’s not about being elite. I want the doors of opportunity to be available to all segments of our society.”

But after the meeting, Anderson said the General College proposal makes him wonder where diversity – both economic and racial – would come from.

“I just want to make sure my little brothers and sisters within the state have the same opportunities we have today,” he said.

Anderson said that until all public high schools in Minnesota offer the same access to success, General College is necessary.

Forum member Emily Serafy Cox questioned whether General College’s proposed replacement, a department within the College of Education and Human Development, will serve as many students as General College currently does.

Probably not, Bruininks said, because many students will be integrated into other colleges. This will improve the diversity and thus quality of education University-wide, he said.

“I do believe that people learn much more, are challenged much more when they learn in diverse cultures,” he said.

Also in his hourlong address, Bruininks explained the strategic-positioning process and touched on other aspects of the reports.

Bruininks said he’s especially excited about one proposal calling for the merging of the College of Natural Resources and the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences. The merger of two related colleges – and others like it – will mean a more effective education for students, he said.

“This state Ö (is an) area where we really care deeply about the natural environment,” he said. “The University of Minnesota should be one of the best places in the world in this field.”

Bruininks will submit his recommendations to the Board of Regents in May. At its June meeting, the board will likely act on those proposals.

“Then, the work really starts,” Bruininks said.