GC supporters voice concerns

University President Bob Bruininks fielded questions in a meeting about General College.

A General College teaching specialist called University President Bob Bruininks a “dream-killer” at a meeting Thursday in which students and faculty members discussed the college’s future.

General College teaching specialist LeRoy Gardner Jr. said he thinks the University is moving toward benefiting only privileged white students.

Last week, a task force recommended closing General College as part of a plan to make the University a top research institution.

Gardner said that he told people, “Bob’s a good man,” when Bruininks became head of the University.

Upon hearing Gardner’s comments, Bruininks said, “You haven’t changed your mind, have you?”

Gardner said, “Yes, I have.”

He said General College has people trained to deal specifically with issues of diversity and called Bruininks a “killer of a dream.”

“You’re saying ‘We’re not killing General College,’ but you are,” Gardner said as the room erupted in applause.

Bruininks said, “I’m not trying to kill the dream.”

He said that if people who have had fewer opportunities come into the application process, the University will take that into account.

“We need to give opportunities to people from all backgrounds,” Bruininks said.

He said the plan would merge academic units to strengthen the University’s academic leadership.

“I don’t think it’s absolutely essential to be a college to do what your programs do,” Bruininks said.

Chris Anderson, a General College student, said he has been a minority in predominantly white institutions his whole life.

“We have the ability to create a community that gives underprivileged, under-represented students a voice, confidence,” he said. “I don’t believe you should take that away.”

Leah Woodstrom, a General College teaching assistant, choked up while asking Bruininks a question.

“What is so unacceptable about me and my friends?” she said. “There’s so many students – our brothers and sisters – who are just the same.”

Bruininks said the proposal is not about disrespecting Woodstrom or anyone in General College.

General College professor Amy Lee said that even if General College will still remain in the form of a department, it won’t be the same.

“There’s a symbolic meaning of the word ‘college,’ ” she said. “It unifies us, gives us a mission.”

Lee said she sees strengths in the plan but feels it minimizes the importance of General College.

“Students feel like they don’t matter,” she said.

Others asked Bruininks how the University would keep a multicultural climate after dissolving General College.

Bruininks said the commitment to student diversity and student support would remain.

“This has to be a universitywide effort,” he said.