Cutting General College hurts U

If we lose General College, our campus will be less diverse and offer less access to urban minorities.

The University’s announcement last week of plans to eliminate General College came as no shock to me. University President Bob Bruininks and other senior officials have seemingly avoided divulging any information as long as possible to evade what was sure to be an uprising against their “strategic plans.”

Many students have begun rallying to take action against the proposals. They speak of valiant efforts and protests that are sure to save the college. However, the pieces of this movement have long since been set in motion: Bruininks is in full support of the proposal and is now seeking to gain the support of the regents, University officials and decision- makers. At the sake of being the voice of negativity, I will say that I highly doubt there is anything disgruntled University students and pro-General College faculty members can do to save the college.

More important now are the implications and effects this unmerited proposal will have, particularly for the minority students from urban areas who largely populate General College.

I was fortunate enough to attend a very academically prestigious high school that had a resource center fully equipped with several college advisers and extensive information on every major university in the nation. I had access to college infomercial videos, recruiters and even advisers available to help set up college visits. However, many of my minority acquaintances at the University who attended inner-city schools had different experiences.

Friends informed me their high schools didn’t even have college resource centers, and the ones that did were far from adequate in providing substantial college-bound student resources. Undermine or sugarcoat educational disparities if you will, but the overriding fact is predominantly white suburban schools provide better education, better facilities and resources, and receive more funding than urban schools with predominantly minority student populations.

So what does all that mean? I said all that to inform the educated bigots and “privileged” students and faculty crediting the high numbers of minorities in General College to a lack of intelligence and work ethic that you are gravely mistaken. It’s clear there is a negative stigma generated by our school from students who are not in General College toward those who are.

Even among faculty members, this stigma is expressed through this systematic removal of the college now being proposed by our president and regents, who view the college as a heavy chain on the school’s hopes of becoming a top-tier university. For minorities, it’s not about lower intelligence or work ethic at all. It’s about socio-economic disparities and an overall lack of equal educational opportunity.

“Privileged” individuals fail to understand the majority of minority students in General College are products of inadequate elementary, middle and high school educations delivered from ill-funded urban institutions that neither provided the resources nor the proper information to prepare their students for higher education. These institutions have poor finances, harbor stressed and underpaid faculty members, and operate in dilapidated facilities that simply do not foster a proper learning environment for their students.

Consequently, the few numbers of these students that go on to further their education at accredited four-year schools such as the University find themselves unsure of the direction they should take with regard to their majors, degree programs and course curriculums. They look to General College as a haven where they can adjust to the new rigors of higher education unmentioned to them in their high schools. It is a transitional college, a mainstay for underprepared students, and to “phase” it out into what will doubtless be an ignored department is a direct attack on the diversity the University so adamantly claims to accommodate. That diversity cannot but take a direct hit from such a transformation.

The “privileged” will say, “Go to a junior college if you’re not ready or prepared for a major university, right? Get your generals out of the way, and then transfer.” The truth is that the actual percentage of students who accomplish the lofty goal of transferring to an accredited four-year institution after finishing their generals at a junior college is less than 10 percent. This goes to show our junior colleges are also ill-equipped for preparing students for higher-learning institutions. So what other option do underprivileged, underprepared minority students have to assimilate into a major institution like the University, if not General College?

None. They are left with no choice, and the number of minority students at the University will decline drastically as a result of the removal of General College. The motion doesn’t even make sense, because our school is the largest commuter population school in the nation. No other Division I university of this size is so close in location to a major urban development like downtown Minneapolis.

Newsflash, regents: We are not and never will be Stanford University or the University of Michigan. We aren’t even in the same category as these highly funded college-town schools, so why try and compete? What we are sure to witness in time at the University of Minnesota with this newly created “effort” is decreased diversity, less academic support and programs linking minority students to the University of Minnesota, and higher increases in already skyrocketing tuition rates. Then again, this is probably what they want.

Sam Adegoke welcomes comments at [email protected]