Sit-in challenges elitism and process

We’re fighting to keep the University open to a broad public.

University President Bob Bruininks and his plan for the University’s future are taking our University down the wrong path. A small, unrepresentative group of faculty members and administrators have decided that excellence in higher education means exclusion. For 70 years, the General College has made quality university education accessible to underserved students from across the state and the socioeconomic divide. Now Bruininks has signed off on a plan to ax General College. On Wednesday, a group of students, the General College truth movement, started a sit-in at the President’s office to save General College and the access it provides. The movement is demanding that Bruininks take General College out of his plan for the University’s future and open up this process to diverse voices from across the campus community. I, as a student, fully support the actions of these students and urge you to support them too. Here’s why:

First, the plan institutionalizes elitism at the University. The University plans to take resources away from recruiting potential students who were underserved by their primary and secondary school systems – any of whom are lower-income, racially diverse and first- generation students. At the same time, the plan puts money toward scholarships to attract “top” students, many from out of state. To this end, the University proposes drastically “restructuring” General College and opening an Honors College. An Honors College would be great but not at the expense of General College. The bottom line is that a quality education means sharing classrooms with people with many different experiences and learning styles.

Second, General College needs to be a college. As a college with the ability to direct its own budget and mission, General College has the power to ensure promising students get into the University and are supported while here. General College does outreach and individualized application review to admit high-potential students who might otherwise be excluded from the University because of lack of opportunities in their high schools. Without this assertive recruitment, there would be 65 percent less black students, 27 percent less Asian-American students, 40 percent less Chicano, Latino and Hispanic students and 43 percent less American Indian students admitted to the University.

Third, the plan excludes students. The elite vision of a “top three” University was created by elites through an elite process. The committee was made up of eight male professors (seven from the sciences) and only one female professor (from the English department). The process was conducted behind closed doors without input from those who would be the most affected. The elitist and corporate mentality reflected in the plan is not the best thing for our education.

Lastly, students are making their voices heard through nonviolent civil disobedience. Actions like sit-ins are important demonstrations of people’s commitment to social justice. More importantly, they work. They work to speak truth to power at key moments in an institution’s history: like the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees supported sit-in that I engaged in last year and the General College truth movement today.

I urge you to support students who are fighting to keep this University open to a broad public and not just “open for business.” Stand with students at General College and at rallies in front of Northrop Auditorium at 11 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. today. Call Bruininks. Tell him to meet the students’ demands and not to arrest or discipline students doing these brave actions. The future of accessible education in Minnesota depends on us.

Emily Serafy Cox is the MSA president-elect. Please send comments to [email protected]