Recommendations get mixed reaction

by Anna Weggel

The major recommended changes to the University announced Wednesday have generated mixed feelings on campus and at the Legislature.

A task force, which has been working on its recommendations for eight months, came up with ideas that include restructuring General College and the College of Human Ecology, among other changes.

University President Bob Bruininks will present his recommendations to the Board of Regents in May, and the board will hold a public forum to discuss the proposals May 16. The board will make its final decision in June.

Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, said the University’s goal of becoming one of the top three research universities in the world doesn’t make much sense.

“I think we should stop the silly rhetoric Ö and we should actually concentrate on saying we want to be an outstanding university,” she said.

Although Kahn would like to hear from more people about the direction of General College, she said, she is a little concerned.

“General College is the only easier-access place that’s right in the center of Minneapolis and St. Paul,” she said.

Kahn said she doesn’t think there is much extra space in surrounding community colleges for underprepared students.

“You’re not talking about people who just can go spend room and board and live away from home,” she said.

Kahn said she supports the proposed Regents Honors College.

“I do think it’s a good idea to make extra efforts to attract outstanding students,” she said.

But she doesn’t understand why it has to be done at the expense of General College, Kahn said.

Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, said he supports the recommendations, as he believes they are a step toward improving the University.

“The same old isn’t always the best,” he said.

Nornes said he realizes the University can’t be everything to everybody.

“But I think in the long run, it’s not going to hurt students,” he said. “They will not be negatively impacted by this change.”

Nornes said there are many other choices for underprepared students who want to come to the University.

“It just means (underprepared students) may have to

be at a different sight and, with improvements in their academic standing, eventually come back to the University,” he said.

At this point, the plan is just a recommendation that needs to be run by many people before coming into action, Nornes said.

‘A positive thing’

Minnesota Student Association President Tom Zearley said the recommendations could potentially improve a lot at the University.

Zearley said the changes made to General College are “definitely a positive thing” as long as access for underprepared and minority students remains the same.

Zearley said he believes the proposed setup of the University could still offer support structures for those students.

In addition, he said, it would be good for General College students to take classes with other students, instead of being separate from the rest of campus.

“I really see it being a beneficial thing of not segregating these students into one building, into all the same classes together,” he said.

Zearley said it is important for students to tell Bruininks what they think about the recommendations.

“The president needs to know what students think about this stuff, because it affects us greatly,” he said. “It’s a big thing, and this is something that’s going to guide the University for many years in the future.”

Regents Chairman David Metzen said he and the regents have 2 1/2 months to listen to people and Bruininks before making the final decision.

“We don’t even know what’s coming our way yet,” he said.

Metzen said it can be hard to make decisions dealing with University reorganization.

“I think it’ll be difficult,” he said. “The recommendations are talking about some big issues – we affect a lot of people.”

Two colleges two reactions

Robert Poch, General College assistant dean and student services director, said the recommendations are not a final decision.

“Until a decision is made, we will continue to voice our opinions about the college’s value,” he said.

Poch said the college is engaging in conversations about its future.

“We are hoping the president is open to consultation and conversation,” Poch said. “There are no packing boxes around here.”

General College student Felicia Crittenden said it’s hard for students to show they can do well if they’re not given a chance.

“It says to me: If you’re not smart, you’re not welcomed,” she said.

College of Human Ecology Dean Shirley Baugher said she supports the proposed plan and is excited for the future.

The plan says the family social sciences department should combine with the College of

Education and Human Development’s Institute of Child Development.

“It’s important to stay focused on the fact that nothing is merging, we’re creating something new,” Baugher said.

College of Human Ecology junior Jolene Zehm said the proposed changes make sense and that she wonders why the departments haven’t been combined before.

“It may enhance the majors, because we’ll have a chance to interact more with students of other majors,” she said.

– Derrick Biney and Jerret Raffety contributed to this report.