Groups unite to focus on accessibility to the U

The General College Truth Movement held a teach-in with other groups Friday.

Devon Sykes

While student activist groups at the University might have different goals, some of them are now working together to get out their messages.

As part of their ongoing efforts to keep the University accessible and democratic, the General College Truth Movement is working with other activist groups to pursue a campaign of community outreach and discussion.

The group intends to prevent changes to the General College under the University’s realignment plan.

While the GCTM is focused on the General College, Lily Shank, a global studies senior at the University and member of the GCTM, said the group’s overall goals are broader.

“Our general goal is to protect access to education,” she said. “We believe the General College was a point of access for urban youth, students of color and low-income background students.”

The General College will change to the status of a department in the College of Education and Human Development under the plan, which the regents approved last June with an 11-1 vote. The number of students accepted will be reduced from 875 to 475, and the department will offer only a one-year program. The changes will take place over the next two years.

The GCTM held a teach-in, an open discussion with members of other campus activist groups, Friday.

Group members voiced their opinions at the teach-in as an effort to find ways to combine their goals and work together.

In addition to the GCTM, representatives from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees unions, the University’s graduate employees, anti-war groups and the new Progressive Faculty Organization were present.

“We all have different fronts and different struggles,” said Martha Ockenfels-Martinez, a Chicano studies and global studies senior at the University and a GCTM member. “But we (can combine our efforts) to move forward and stop spinning our wheels.”

“One thing that connects us is a general disdain for the way this University is run and for this administration,” said Isaac Kamola, a teaching assistant in the University’s political science department.

While people discussed many issues at the event, the main consideration was preventing further changes to the General College.

Shank said the Board of Regents was ignoring the will of the community when it “killed” the General College.

“They have made major decisions about the new department without democratic process,” Shank said.

She said that if there is no community outrage after this, the University will continue to reduce the scope of the General College.

Robert Jones, senior vice president for Systems Administration at the University, disagreed with the GCTM.

“We felt it was time for the University to take a hard look (at the issue) and stay true to the spirit of the General College, but improve its positioning within the University system,” he said. “Clearly, we need a better model.”

He said the current model, which has been in place for almost 75 years, isn’t being used as effectively as University administrators think it could.

“I know those people involved in the General College Truth Movement want to maintain the status quo, but we don’t think that’s the right way to proceed,” Jones said.

While some at the meeting worried that the lack of action would damage the GCTM, some concrete plans have been made.

In addition to the next teach-in, which will be at 5 p.m. Friday in 150 Blegen Hall, the group plans smaller teach-ins on specific issues and a trip to an Oct. 15 conference in Madison, Wis., on democratizing higher education.

Anyone can take part in the ongoing discussion at the GCTM’s Web site, www.we begc.org.